Medvedev to Conclude WTO Talks With EU During Brussels Visit

President Dmitry Medvedev travels to Brussels tomorrow to conclude talks with the European Union as part of Russia’s 17-year bid to join the World Trade Organization.

“This is a very important summit,” Sergei Prikhodko, Medvedev’s foreign policy aide, told reporters in Moscow last week. “I hope we’ll draw a line under the big, important, difficult and sometimes tiresome work to resolve all issues” raised by the EU related to Russia’s WTO accession.

John Clancy, trade spokesman at the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said last month that the 27-nation bloc had reached agreement on its remaining issues in Russia’s WTO bid. “The EU is satisfied with the outcome achieved in this negotiation with regard to long-standing issues of Russia’s applied export duties and railway fees,” he said.

Russia plans to cut its timber export duty to about 15 percent of customs value from 25 percent as part of the EU talks, an official with direct knowledge of the negotiations said on Nov. 25. The lower duty will come into effect when Russia enters the WTO, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details of the agreement aren’t yet public.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Nov. 26 that it’s “possible” that Russia, the largest economy outside the 153- member Geneva-based WTO, may join the trade body in 2011.

Partnership Agreement

Medvedev will head a delegation of officials and businessmen to attend a European Union-Russia summit that will focus on trade, business projects and global security issues, Prikhodko said. Medvedev will hold talks with EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Russia also hopes to conclude talks next year on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the EU to replace an accord that expired in 2007, Prikhodko said. A new round of talks on the agreement will take place Dec. 17.

Trade between Russia and the EU rose 34.5 percent in the first nine months from a year earlier to $217.8 billion, according to materials distributed by the Kremlin.

On his second day in Brussels, Medvedev will meet with Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme and King Albert II.

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