ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Russian accession into the World Trade Organization (WTO) could be delayed by several years if there was no agreement on key issues by the end of July, Russia's economy minister said on Saturday.
Russia aims to become a member of the trade watchdog in December but Elvira Nabiullina said that the outstanding issues included agriculture, Russia's car assembly regime as well as controls on the import of food and livestock.
"We need to agree with our partners on three large issues before the end of July. If we do not manage to do it, from my point of view, the process might take some more years," Nabiullina told reporters at St. Petersburg Economic Forum.
"The talks' timetable is very tense," Nabiullina said, adding that if there was no agreement by mid-July "we will not be able to reach an agreement for a long time, I think, we will have other things to take care of."
Sources close to negotiations process told Reuters earlier this year that elections in Russia and the United States would inevitably stall the Russian accession process if there was no conclusive agreement by the second half of 2011.
Russia applied to join the WTO's predecessor, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), in June 1993 and its $1.5 trillion economy is by far the largest economy outside the 153-member Organization.
President Dmitry Medvedev said last week there was a "very high chance" that Russia would become a WTO member in 2011 but complained about delays in negotiations.
(Reporting by Darya Korsunskaya; Writing by Gleb Bryanski)