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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

WTO Envoy Hails Progress in Geneva

Russia has made good progress in WTO entry talks in Geneva this week and can technically complete the process by year's end, top government negotiator Maxim Medvedkov said Thursday.

During the multilateral negotiations, a World Trade Organization group handling the bid and a Russian delegation agreed on the rules governing free economic zones, trade in civil aircraft, customs fees, import restrictions and tariff quotas, among other issues, Medvedkov said by telephone from Geneva.

The two sides agreed upon eight chapters of the Working Party report, Medvedkov said, adding that two more chapters are nearly done. That means that Russia has just another 11 or 12 chapters to go through, before the report of more than 40 chapters is complete.

"All of those chapters have been difficult for us," Medvedkov said, adding that the next round of multilateral negotiations would be held late fall. "We have reasons to be optimistic that we'll finish all the chapters by early fall," he said.

This week's talks are informal, largely due to objections by Georgia. Unhappy about Russia's trading with Georgia's breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the Georgian government has demanded the right to clear all goods being traded at its own checkpoints.

The agreements will have to be approved during formal talks after Georgia lifts its veto, said Alexei Portansky, head of the information office for Russia's bid. To mend fences, Russia is currently exchanging letters with Georgia, Portansky said. Russia wrote Georgia that checkpoints have nothing to do with WTO rules, and now expects to hear back, Medvedkov said, Interfax reported.

President Vladimir Putin in June met with several U.S. executives to secure their help in speeding up talks. Portansky said Thursday that Russia could join by year's end, in spring 2008 or in 2009.

A WTO spokeswoman in Geneva said the body had "enough information to update what was written two years ago," and called the current talks "a step toward progress in the accession."

This is a third version of the report and the new chapters will be included in a fourth version, said the spokeswoman, who declined to be identified.

Medvedkov said Russia still needed to sign a bilateral protocol with Cambodia. He was scheduled to hold talks late Thursday with Saudi Arabia, another WTO member with which Russia needs to complete bilateral talks.

Medvedkov and the WTO officials also discussed sanitary and phytosanitary standards on Thursday and are scheduled to negotiate support for Russian agriculture -- the toughest issue under discussion -- on Friday, said Anastasia Zimonina, a spokeswoman for the Economic Development and Trade Ministry.

Medvedkov also met this week with his U.S. counterpart, Assistant Trade Representative Matt Rohde, said Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the U.S. Trade Representative's office, without elaborating. After the talks, Medvedkov gave Rohde a lift back to the U.S. mission, prompting Rossiiskaya Gazeta to speculate that the talks had been successful.

When asked to comment on the report, however, Medvedkov only said, "It was raining."