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Russia, EU Agree on WTO Entry Terms - 2004-05-21


Russia has agreed with the European Union on the terms of its entry into the World Trade Organization. Moscow agreed in return to speed up ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on reducing pollution.

Russian President Vladimir Putin looked on as his economic development and trade minister, German Gref, and EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy signed the protocol backing Russia's accession to the WTO.

The document lays out conditions for bringing Russian goods to European markets, and removes a major obstacle to Russia's long-held hopes of becoming a member of the world trade body.

Trade and Russia's ratification of the Kyoto protocol dominated the EU-Russia summit.

President Putin told a Kremlin news conference, the signing of the protocol demonstrates Russia is seen by Europe as an equal trading partner.

Mr. Putin says joining the WTO is very important for Russia. He says the accord with Europe is a positive step that can only reflect well on Russia's relations with other WTO partners.

Russia's next hurdle in its quest for membership in the 147-nation world trade body is negotiating similar agreements with other WTO members, including the United States and China.

Vadim Novikov, of the Moscow Institute for Economies in Transition, says he is surprised Russia did not have to agree to ratify the Kyoto Protocol immediately. He says President Putin has long held out on ratifying Kyoto, questioning its scientific merit and economic consequence for Russia. He says Mr. Putin felt Europe has met Russian demands in the trade talks half-way.

European officials had long accused Russia of using ratification of the Kyoto agreement as a bargaining chip for WTO entry.

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