GENEVA — Russian Economic Trade and Development Minister German Gref said here Friday that Moscow hopes to complete its 11-year entry talks to join the World Trade Organization by the end of 2005.

“We are exerting every effort … to complete all negotiations by this December,” he said at a news conference.

The objective is to announce that a deal has been reached during the WTO trade ministers’ summit in Hong Kong in December and to wrap up any loose ends in early 2006, senior trade diplomats said. This would make Russia a full WTO member before it is the host of a G8 meeting in Moscow next summer.

The resource-rich nation of 144 million people, which in recent years has been reporting strong growth because of high world oil prices, is considered a lucrative market, particularly for luxury goods.

Russia already has concluded market access entry talks for goods and services with many major trading powers, such as the European Union, Japan and China, but has yet to broker similar accords — a prerequisite for a final deal — with the U.S. and other trading powers such as Brazil and Australia.

The U.S. delegation told the same session that it is close to a deal on market access for industrial goods, trade officials said.

Senior Russian delegation sources said the country’s average tariff upon WTO entry would come down to about 7.2. percent from 11 percent. Duties for apparel would drop to 15 to 17.5 percent, from 20 to 25 percent.

In 2004, Russia was ranked the world’s 14th-largest exporter, with shipments up by 35 percent in value to $183.2 billion.

Russian and Western diplomats noted that, if the opportunity to close the deal between now and Hong Kong is missed, Moscow’s WTO bid could drift.

Such an outcome “would be very bad for the country,” said a senior Russian official.

This story first appeared in the June 28, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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