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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Russia Far From WTO Admission, Propaganda Exposed

Kommersant reveals that not only the U.S. but several countries have withheld their consent to Russia joining the WTO, as the Kremlin moves forward to alienate the entire world this can come as no surprise. At the same time, Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin is revealed as being either a crazed loose cannon, spewing forth ridiculous nonsense beyond the Kremlin's control, or a reflection of a deeply ignorant and insular Kremlin which itself has no idea what is happening and believes its own propaganda.

Chief Russian negotiator on WTO accession Maxim Medvedkov spoke yesterday about the condition of those negotiations. He directly contradicted the optimistic statements made by Minister of Economic Development and Trade German Gref and Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin immediately before and after the G8 summit. The Russian Federation has not reached an agreement with the United States, nor with Moldova, Costa Rica and Georgia. Furthermore, besides the disagreement with the U.S. over meat inspection, half of the topics discussed earlier remain open. Gref had stated that the U.S. was the last country that it was necessary to reach an agreement with and that inspection of imported meat was the final issue in negotiations with it. Kudrin said that agreement had been reached on liberalization of financial markets and protection of intellectual property.

Medvedkov said that Russian inspectors would travel to the U.S. within a few weeks to examine American meat plants and that that issue was effectively settled. But that is not the end of the process. “Nothing is agreed on until everything is agreed on,” Medvedkov explained WTO rules. That means that American negotiators can still make new demands in areas that had been considered finalized. No agreement on meat quotas after 2009 has been reached either. Medvedkov did not say whether agreement had been reached on liberalization of the services market.

A source close to the negotiations told Kommersant yesterday that “Rumors that the opening of insurance company branches means selling the Russian insurance sector are highly exaggerated. There are no sectors that we are willing to sacrifice for the sake of the WTO. The opening of any market will be gradual and not complete.” This indicates that Kudrin's statement on that subject was also erroneous.

Medvedkov said that the U.S. is not the last country that Russia has to reach bilateral agreements with. Agreements still must be reached with Costa Rica (the Economic Ministry unofficially announced the conclusion of an agreement with that country on June 6), Moldova and Georgia (resumption of negotiations). The issue of conditions on access to the sugar market has to be settled with Costa Rica, conditions on access to the wine and fruits and vegetables market has to be settled with Georgia and the levying of VAT on Russian natural gas on Moldovan territory has to agreed on with that country.

Negotiations with the U.S. will continue this week. Medvedkov estimated that negotiations with Costa Rica, Moldova and Georgia may be completed by September, and with the U.S. by late October.

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