Russia says it has reached WTO deal with U.S.

Friday, November 10th 2006, 11:12 am
By: News On 6

MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia and the United States reached agreement Friday on Moscow's entry into the World Trade Organization, but final details needed to be resolved for a formal deal to be signed at next week's summit meeting in Vietnam.

``Government delegations from both countries agreed on all principal conditions of this agreement,'' the Trade and Economic Development Ministry said in a statement.

It said both sides would continue talks to ensure that the bilateral agreement was signed at the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in Hanoi by the countries' top trade negotiators. The ministry did not give any further details.

``We have an agreement in principle and are finalizing the details,'' U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in a separate announcement. ``This agreement will mark an important step in Russia attaining membership in the WTO.''

Russian business daily Kommersant reported Friday that a ``formula for the political resolution of the problems'' had been found. It quoted unidentified Kremlin sources.

Observers have linked progress over the WTO to resolving disagreement over how to respond to Iran's disputed nuclear program.

``I think it is political, it's clearly not an economic problem,'' said Yevgeny Gavrilenkov, economist with Troika Dialog in Moscow. ``They may see some movement on supporting the U.N. resolution proposing sanctions.''

Russia has resisted sanctions against its commercial partner Iran proposed by the U.S. and its European allies, but analysts have said that a deal over the WTO could persuade Moscow to soften its opposition to punishing Tehran for its refusal to halt sensitive uranium enrichment.

Russia had earlier hoped to sign a bilateral agreement with Washington as the centerpiece of the Group of Eight Summit, which it hosted in St. Petersburg in July, but talks foundered over sanitary inspections for U.S. beef and pork imports.

Russia had refused a U.S. demand for an immediate increase in imports of American beef and pork before Russia completed a review of America's food inspection system.

Russia is the largest economy outside the 149-member WTO. Its efforts to join have been bogged down in trying to reach a bilateral agreement with the United States, the last major country whose approval it needs to join the powerful body that sets global trade rules.