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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Medvedev Confident on WTO Accession

MOSCOW — Russia remains confident that it will join the World Trade Organization together with Kazakhstan and Belarus, and the country's desire to join should not be doubted, President Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday.

Russia has been negotiating to join the world trade body for 16 years and is the largest economy outside its structures.

"We will join the WTO despite some delays due to the formation of the customs union [with Belarus and Kazakhstan]," Medvedev said. "There should be no doubt about this."

Russia has returned to direct WTO negotiations after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said his country was only interested in joining the organization in concert with Belarus and Kazakhstan through a customs union — an unprecedented move in the history of the organization.

The customs union will come into force on Jan. 1, 2010 and will create common external tariffs for the three countries and create a single market for their combined 165 million people.

First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said on Wednesday that there was only one WTO negotiation group for the union, consisting of representatives from all three countries and that for now the group was working effectively.

"If we need to change the format, we will make such a decision, but this decision would be made only with the agreement of all three countries," Shuvalov said.

"Our directives regarding simultaneous entry into the WTO and on equal terms for Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus are carried on," he added.

Last week, the three countries said they hoped for WTO entry as soon as possible but said they would pursue their candidacies as separate states.

Russia's Ministry for Economic Development said earlier this month that the customs union could, "without rushing," finish negotiations in the next 1 1/2 to 2 years.

Shuvalov said the negotiating committee, headed by Russia's WTO negotiator Maxim Medvedkov, is acting on behalf of the customs union as well as on behalf of each of the three countries.