New Round of WTO talks eye January 2010 accession

Prime Minister Putin's reversed his opposition to the World Trade Organization by backing a new round of accession talks which start on Monday. But negotiators have admitted that in the first years Russia will give WTO members more than it gets.

If Russia wants zero-tariff trade with the WTO's 153 members, Washington is demanding the Kremlin first privatize state giants.  The WTO says Russia must also slash its $6 Billion in annual soft loans to farmers, and Baltic members, which get up to 80% of their timber from Russia, want wood export duties slashed.

Altogether, in the first few years of membership at least, Moscow stands to lose more than it gains, according to Vladimir Tkachenko, one of Russia’s WTO Negotiators.

“Members of WTO will gain, Russia will probably have to give.”

But the global financial crisis has switched Russia's mindset. In August Vladimir Putin mulled dropping WTO talks. But Russia can no longer afford to ignore the long-term benefits of more trade and cheaper consumer prices. And the Kremlin now sees the WTO as a tool to boosting Russia's world power in the turmoil, according to Yaroslav Lissovolik, Chief Economist at Deutsche Bank Russia

“This is also an opportunity for Russia to further boost its global role and participate more actively in the building of a new economic world order that's being built right now.”

Russia's negotiators now eye membership on January 1 2010. Prime Minister Putin has already said he'll block planned increases in timber export tariffs.

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