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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

WTO Not at Any Price, Official Says

GENEVA -- Russia will not leave weaker sectors of its economy at the mercy of free market forces in order to win admission to the World Trade Organization, Moscow's ambassador in Geneva said Wednesday.

Envoy Valery Loshchinin said Moscow had the impression that the United States -- the only major trade power with which it is still seeking a WTO entry agreement -- was toughening its stance. "Joining the WTO remains a top priority for us. But the most important thing is to obtain acceptable membership terms. We are not ready to pay any price for accession," he told an audience at the Swiss Press Club.

"We are eager to play a full part in the international trading system and to be cooperating with our partners on the basis of clear WTO rules that are the same for everybody. But we will not accept more than that."

The envoy was also downbeat on prospects for an early accord with the United States. Suggestions by chief Russian WTO negotiator Maxim Medvedkov in London on Tuesday that the talks might be completed soon were "an optimistic point of view."

Loshchinin's comments echoed complaints from both poor and rich countries negotiating WTO entry that big powers, often the United States, demand market openings benefiting their firms that go well beyond current WTO agreements.

To gain admission to the currently 149-nation body, applicants have to reach a bilateral accord with any member that wants it. These pacts are then incorporated into an overall entry agreement that must be approved by the entire body.

Russia, negotiating entry for over a decade, has already wrapped up talks with 56 WTO members, including the 25-nation European Union, Japan, Canada and Australia. Apart from the United States, only Colombia -- holding back over sugar -- has yet to settle.

During its some 15 years of negotiations, China frequently accused the United States and sometimes the European Union of raising barriers in areas like farm subsidies and services after partial accords had been reached.

More recently, Cambodian officials said to get into the WTO they had been compelled under U.S. pressure to agree to open fledgling and highly vulnerable markets wider than was required under existing rules for members.