Russia Seeking Clarity About U.S. Position on WTO Bid
President Dmitry Medvedev will seek a “definitive” answer from Barack Obama about the U.S. stance on Russia’s bid to enter the World Trade Organization when the two leaders meet this week in Washington, an aide said.
“We count on getting a more definitive response” and an “understanding of what they see as the hurdles,” Sergei Prikhodko, Medvedev’s foreign policy aide, told reporters late yesterday in Moscow. “It is awkward to keep knocking when the door should be open and we should be welcomed with open arms.”
Russia, the largest economy outside the Geneva-based WTO, has been working to join for almost two decades. Russia has sent contradictory signals about whether it wants to enter the WTO alone or, as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced last June, as part of a customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus.
Medvedev arrives in California late tonight at the start of a three-day U.S. visit that will involve visits to technology companies, including San Francisco-based Twitter Inc. and San Jose-based Cisco Systems Inc., as well as talks with Obama on June 24 in Washington.
The U.S. strongly supports Russia’s bid to join the WTO, though work remains to be done, Robert Hormats, undersecretary of state for economics, energy and agriculture, said June 17 at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
“We think that to a great degree the pace of completing the entry talks depends on the U.S.,” Prikhodko said, adding that he hopes pledges of assistance from U.S. leaders “will materialize into concrete negotiating positions.”
Obama and Medvedev will have a wide-ranging agenda for their meeting, including ratification of the nuclear arms reduction treaty they signed in April, missile defense, European security and Russia’s relations with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Prikhodko said.
The two administrations are also working on a joint statement on Kyrgyzstan “to demonstrate our common concern with the events there and readiness to offer support,” he said.
Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic bordering China, descended into unrest in April when President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted and replaced by an interim government led by Rosa Otunbayeva. The city of Osh had been at the center of violence that has left hundreds dead and displaced about 300,000 in the south of the country.
The U.S. and Russia have jostled for influence in Kyrgyzstan, where both countries have air bases. The U.S. relies on the Manas base outside the capital Bishkek to support operations in Afghanistan after Uzbekistan evicted the American military in 2005.
Prikhodko said there will be no mention of the base in the joint statement.
After their summit, Medvedev and Obama will meet with business leaders from both countries and oversee the signing of some deals.
The Russian business delegation will include Russian Technologies Corp. Chief Executive Officer Sergei Chemezov, OAO Novolipetsk Steel’s billionaire owner Vladimir Lisin, billionaire Roustam Tariko, owner of Russian Standard vodka, and Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team.
The U.S. delegation will include Jim Albaugh, CEO of Boeing Co.’s commercial aircraft division. Russia expects Chicago-based Boeing to sign an agreement to sell its 737 aircraft to Russian Technologies, Prikhodko said. Boeing may also agree to expand cooperation with OAO VSMPO-Avisma, the world’s biggest titanium producer.
The two leaders will also discuss Medvedev’s proposal to co-develop a heavy-lift cargo plane, an idea he raised during Obama’s visit to Moscow last July, Prikhodko said.
“Boeing is carrying out an internal audit” of the proposal, he said.
Dmitry Krol, Boeing’s spokesman in Moscow, said he couldn’t comment specifically on the proposal.
“We can say we regularly look at opportunities to partner with industry around the world,” Krol said in an e-mailed response to questions. “Those partnerships, when they materialize, can take a variety of forms.”
Russia needs funding and customers to resume production of the Soviet-designed Antonov-124, which carries outsized cargo for everyone from the military to pop stars.
The project could become “the largest cooperation effort between the two countries since the International Space Station,” Alexei Fyodorov, CEO of Moscow-based United Aircraft Corp., said in a June 16 interview. The aircraft could be assembled at Boeing’s Long Beach, California, plant for C-17 military transport planes.
“We, the U.S., are giving this proposal a careful and extensive review of its merits,” Kevin Kabumoto, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, said by phone. “In the final analysis, this is a business decision to be made by the private sector partners involved.”