Ukraine ahead of Russia in WTO entry bid - FT

15:12, 27 July 2007
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Ukraine has made faster progress than Russia

Ukraine is on track to complete negotiations to join the World Trade Organisation by the end of this year and Russia has a fighting chance of doing the same, trade officials said yesterday, according to Financial Times.

The newspaper reads that the two former Soviet republics are the largest economies remaining outside the WTO, which today welcomes the tiny Pacific island of Tonga as its 151st member.

Despite its turbulent domestic political scene, Ukraine has made faster progress than Russia in its WTO application in the last couple of years, largely due to the pro-western stance of President Viktor Yushchenko who has made WTO membership and closer trade ties with the European Union a key goal.

Russia`s 14-year-old accession bid has meanwhile become embroiled in disputes with the US and EU over intellectual property piracy and restrictions on agricultural imports.

In addition, formal meetings of the working party negotiating Russian membership are being blocked by neighbouring Georgia, which insists Russia stop trading with its breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and end its ban on Georgian wine and mineral water.

Earlier this year Peter Mandelson, EU trade commissioner, referred to a "level of mistrust" between Moscow and Brussels unseen since the cold war, while just last month a frustrated President Vladimir Putin criticised the WTO as "archaic, undemocratic and inflexible".

However, Maxim Medvedkov, head of Moscow`s WTO negotiating team, said yesterday: "I hope that with the support of the membership it will be possible for Russia to complete negotiations by the end of this year."

Mr Medvedkov said Russia had now completed bilateral market access negotiations with over 50 WTO members, counting the EU as one, leaving only talks with Saudi Arabia still ongoing.

WTO accession procedures require applicants to negotiate market opening for goods and services with all trading partners that request it, as well as conclude a multilateral accord on how they will apply WTO rules.

Agricultural subsidies and Russia`s food health regulations that have led to the barring of imports from the US, Poland and Thailand, among others, remained sticking points in the multilateral negotiations, Mr Medvedkov acknowledged.

Moscow wants to be allowed to spend up to $9.2bn in annual farm subsidies compared with about $4bn last year.

With so many issues still to settle, Russian hopes of wrapping up accession talks this year look optimistic. By contrast, Ukraine and its trading partners were this week putting the finishing touches to its detailed entry terms.

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