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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lavrov Prods U.S. on WTO Accession

ReutersSergei Lavrov
WASHINGTON -- Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed concern on Tuesday about the slow pace of talks with the United States on Moscow's bid to join the World Trade Organization.

"The United States is the only country as of today that has not signed the protocol on Russia's WTO accession," Lavrov said in a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, one day after the United States and Ukraine signed a bilateral WTO accession deal.

Russia has been negotiating to join the Geneva-based world trade body for more than a decade.

It is one of the few major economies still outside the 149-member WTO. Clinching a deal with the United States would be one of the last steps in its longtime accession bid.

"We would like to see Russia accede to the WTO," Rice told reporters. But "there are rules for accession to the WTO and we negotiate on the basis of those rules. ... We have some issues that are outstanding in areas of agriculture and in services, but our negotiators are working hard."

The agreement also has to pass the scrutiny of the U.S. Congress, Rice said, referring to the need for lawmakers to remove Russia from a Cold War trade provision known as the Jackson-Vanik amendment as part of an accession deal.

That 1974 provision links U.S. trade benefits to the emigration and human rights policies of communist or formerly communist countries.

Congress went through a similar debate in 2000 when it approved "permanent normal trade relations" with China in order for Beijing to join the WTO.

Lavrov complained Russia was still technically subject to the Jackson-Vanik provision, even though the United States has not invoked it against Moscow for years.

U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman said on Monday he hoped the United States could reach a WTO accession deal with Moscow by July, when Russia will host a summit meeting of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations.

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to take up legislation on Wednesday that would remove Ukraine from Jackson-Vanik on the heels of its recent accession deal.

The U.S. Senate voted in November to remove Kiev from the provision in a show of support for Ukraine's reform-minded President Viktor Yushchenko.

Meanwhile, key lawmakers have warned Russia not to expect action on Jackson-Vanik until it does a better job of stopping domestic piracy and counterfeiting of U.S. goods.