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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Warns of WTO Complications

WASHINGTON -- Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization probably will be complicated by Moscow's announcement last week that it will only join the trade body in concert with Belarus and Kazakhstan, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative said.

"We still strongly support WTO accession for all three countries but are examining the implications of this unexpected move," Carol Guthrie, a spokeswoman for U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, said Friday.

Kirk was in St. Petersburg two weeks ago, meeting with Russian officials regarding the country's WTO bid.

"We are especially surprised since Ambassador Kirk had just concluded talks with senior Russian officials regarding the Obama administration's commitment to seeing Russia join the WTO as soon as possible," Guthrie said.

Russia has been trying to join the WTO for more than a decade and is the largest economy to remain outside the 153-member trade group.

The United States had raised concerns about Russia's bid, noting that Moscow needed to do more to crack down on copyright piracy and lift bans on U.S. meat related to the outbreak of A/H1N1 flu.

An upcoming WTO report on protectionism says Russia is one of the most prominent countries banning pork imports from affected countries and together with Argentina will again appear as one of the countries most actively restricting imports, trade sources said on Friday.

Maxim Medvedkov, Russia's chief negotiator, said on Thursday that the country would seek guidance from the WTO on how to proceed with accession talks together with the two former Soviet republics.

"We would like to get a feeling from WTO members on how the three countries as customs union members may continue their negotiations, not from scratch but from the point where we had stopped," Medvedkov said.

"The forecast we made that Russia may become a member before the end of this year should be reviewed," he said.

Medvedkov said Russia had opted for the union because heads of governments of the three countries settled their differences at a meeting in Moscow last week, giving a fresh impetus to union talks under way since 1997.