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Ivanov Says Russia to Join WTO Without Kazakhstan, Belarus

Russia expects to join the World Trade Organization later this year without Kazakhstan and Belarus, leaving those two nations to enter on their own, said Sergei Ivanov, Russia’s deputy prime minister.

“Russia will be the first to join unilaterally,” Ivanov said, responding to a reporter’s question after a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “If and when Kazakhstan and Belarus would like to join WTO, it will be very easy for them. They make their own political decisions.”

The three former Soviet republics formed a unified customs area last year and initially sought to join the WTO as a single entity. There is no precedent for negotiating joint accession.

In October 2009, Russian negotiator Maxim Medvedkov said the delegation of the customs union informed WTO members that they would continue accession talks as sovereign states because any other approach would come with serious legal and procedural difficulties and could delay concluding the talks.

Russia expects to join the WTO “this summer or already this fall,” Ivanov said in a speech. The nation would like to increase trade with the U.S., particularly in technology.

“The existing potential is far from being used to its full extent,” he said.

----With assistance from Halia Pavliva in New York. Editors: Larry Liebert, Donna Alvarado

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