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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Customs Union Will Send Papers to WTO

Russia will deliver information on its customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan to the World Trade Organization next month, in a sign that Moscow may be doubling down on its proposal to enter the organization as part of the confederation.

WTO members requested the information, and Russia will prepare the necessary documents and deliver them after the New Year’s holiday, said Maxim Medvedkov, director of the Economic Development Ministry’s department for WTO accession.

The leaders of the three countries met on Friday for a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Community, the organization on which the customs union is based. Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan are also members of the community but are not part of the customs union.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed a raft of trade documents on Friday, several of which formalized the creation of the customs union, which is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1 with the implementation of a unified customs tariff.

WTO accession director Chiedu Osakwe said Thursday that there remained uncertainty over how the creation of the customs union would affect the accession agreements that Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan had separately negotiated.

The organization is waiting for an official note from the three countries’ delegations that will explain how they plan to proceed in terms of the creation of the customs union, Osakwe said.

“When the members of our organization receive such a document, they will consult internally and take a decision on the talks restart,” he said at a conference in Washington on Russia’s accession to the WTO, Prime-Tass reported.

“All the members of our organization want to see Russia as part of it. It’s a strategic priority for us,” Osakwe said.

Medvedkov said the Russian delegation hoped that the WTO would make a decision on whether to restart talks on the country’s accession as early as January. He did not specify whether the talks would be for Russia’s accession or for that of the customs union.

President Dmitry Medvedev said last month that entering the customs union would not affect Russia’s plans to join the World Trade Organization.

“There are two options: Either enter [the WTO] with the customs union, which no longer exists only on paper, or each country can enter with the agreed-upon positions, but separately,” he said at the time, adding that both options were acceptable.

Russia should continue talks on separately joining the WTO in order to hasten the process, Deputy Economic Development Minister Andrei Slepnyov said Friday.

“From a juridical point of view, we shouldn’t decline separate talks, since everyone intends to a maximal quick accession,” he said, Interfax reported.