Russia to join WTO within a year, Obama aid says

AP News
Posted: Oct 20, 2010 6:06 AM
Russia to join WTO within a year, Obama aid says

Russia will join the World Trade Organization within the next 12 months after almost two decades of negotiations, President Barack Obama's senior economic adviser said Wednesday.

Russia is by far the largest economy still outside the WTO, which regulates trade between its 153 member states, despite being in talks to join since 1993.

"The end is in sight," Lawrence Summers, the director of Obama's National Economic Council, told a briefing. "We are certainly hopeful that well before twelve months from now the process will have been completed."

U.S ally Georgia, which fought a war with Russia in 2008, has voiced objections to Russia's membership bid, and the United States held up Russia's WTO entry talks after that war.

But the talks were resumed during a thaw in relations with Russia initiated by the Obama administration, and Summers said the security situation in Georgia will not directly impact U.S. support for Russia's entry into the organization.

"It is not American policy to propose an explicit linkage between the developments in the security realm and WTO accession," Summers said.

Russia's quotas on U.S. meat imports is one of the outstanding issues that will need to be addressed, he noted.

Before Russia can join, it will have to complete a multilateral accession process in Geneva that satisfies the concerns of all WTO members.

Lawrence said U.S. assent is something that other nations will "watch closely" during the multilateral talks, but added that there is still "work to be done" in Geneva.

"To draw from American football, we have been in the red zone for some time with respect to WTO, and now it is first and goal," Summers said. "But first and goal is not a touchdown."