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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chief Negotiator Sees Fast Entry Into WTO

Maxim Medvedkov, Russia's chief negotiator on World Trade Organization entry talks, said Thursday that Russia wants to conclude a WTO deal by year's end, while the country's top food safety official hinted that a current ban on Polish meat could be extended to other EU countries.

Agreement on the most important elements has been reached and "minor irritants" should not cloud the overall positive picture, said Medvedkov, who is director of the Economic Development and Trade Ministry's department of trade negotiations.

One of these irritants is a 16-month ban on Polish meat imports, which could be extended to other EU countries, Interfax reported. Russia has asked the European Commission to provide it with plans from all EU members to monitor dangerous and banned substances in animal products.

It may ban meat imports from countries failing to provide the information by the March 31 deadline, Interfax reported Sergei Dankvert, chief of the Agriculture Ministry's food safety watchdog, as saying Thursday.

But The Associated Press cited a spokesman for the watchdog as saying Russia had yet to receive the EU plans and was open for negotiations and willing to extend the deadline if necessary.

"Of course we are trying not to complicate international trade," the AP reported him as saying. "We are trying to be as constructive as possible."

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, speaking in Moscow on Tuesday, played down possible consequences of the meat ban, saying the issue would not block Russia's WTO accession.

An EU-Russia meeting has been scheduled for mid-April to discuss Russian concerns and on lifting the Polish meat ban, Reuters reported Thursday.

Medvedkov was as upbeat as Mandelson about Russian WTO entry. He said most remaining issues would likely be solved by the end of July. Negotiations could be finished by September or October, after which the State Duma should ratify the agreement before its mandate expires in early January.

If no deal is reached by that time and the WTO agreement has to be discussed and ratified by a new Duma, considerable delays are likely, Medvedkov said.