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17 May, 2008 09:40

Interview with Guenter Verheugen

Russia will have difficulties getting access to the European markets unless it becomes a member of the WTO, believes Guenter Verheugen, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for enterprise and industry.

Guenter Verheugen: Russia's strategy in my view is completely justified – to have a strong manufacturing and industrial base to develop export markets for Russian products, not only oil and gas, but hi-tech products, innovative products. But as soon as that happens, you need a level-playing field worldwide. Otherwise, you will have tremendous difficulties to get market access for your products, and that's exactly what Russia is facing in the future if it is not a member of the WTO. It does not matter if WTO accession today would really influence the flow of trade and investment this year or next year. The important thing is the long-term perspectives. For the long-term perspective, Russia needs it, really.

Russia Today: The European Union is by far Russia's biggest trading partner, but most of this trade takes place in the energy sector. What can the European Commission do to help Europe's small and medium-sized businesses find their counterparts here in Russia?

G.V.: What I really want to do is discuss with the Russian government how we can improve that and how we can make it more practical and how we can encourage Russian SMBs as a means to use these structures in order to make business contacts with potential partners in the European Union. I strongly believe that this is an area where we have a huge, huge potential that is not exploited.

RT: During your trip, you met Russia's Minister of Energy and Trade, Viktor Khristenko, and you discussed the need for Russia to develop a strong manufacturing base. What can the European Union do specifically to help Russia achieve this goal?

G.V.: The new industrial and technological base of Russia will be created with the help of companies in the European Union which have the technologies and experiences already available.