EU signs up to back Russian WTO accession

AFP Photo / Georges Gobet
Russia and the European Union have finalized a “key questions” memorandum of understanding, which is expected to see all outstanding bilateral issues concerning Russian World Trade Organisation accession resolved by the end of 2011.

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Ahead of a Brussels summit between President Dmitry Medvedev, European Union President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Russian Minister of Economic Development Elvira Nabiullina and European trade commissioner Karel De Gucht signed a memorandum on mutual understanding on the terms of Russia's accession the World Trade Organization.

Russian first commenced the accession process for the WTO in 1993, and its $1.2 trillion economy remains the largest economy outside the global trade body, with the World Bank estimating entry could increase GDP by 11 % in the long term.

Ahead of the summit Jose Manuel Barroso hailed the agreement as a breakthrough stating

"We have achieved a breakthrough in Russia's WTO accession on which the Commission has been working very hard,"and adding, "this is really a milestone. Our difficult bilateral issues are resolved. We signed a memorandum of understanding to this end today."

Barroso said that the agreement could pave the way for formal Russian membership of the WTO from next year.The agreement smoothed over outstanding issues including Russia’s lumber export duties and railway fees, with Russia agreeing to cut the timber export duty to about 15% of customs value from 25% when it accedes to the WTO.

The agenda of the summit also includes global energy security, Russia-EU energy cooperation, and supplies of Russian natural gas to European consumers. Talks between the two will also need to address Russian tariffs on European meat imports and flyover charges imposed on airlines for the right to pass over Siberia.