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Russia Aiming For WTO Membership by 2004 - 2002-07-25

Russian leaders have said they are making progress in efforts to gain Russian membership in the World Trade Organization.

President Vladimir Putin said Russia is doing all it can to create a good business environment in the country. He said the efforts are designed to help Russia join the WTO, the international body that regulates trade.

President Putin said Russia is taking steps to liberalize laws and rid the country of bureaucracy. He described these moves as a way to help Russia join the WTO and integrate itself into the world economy.

President Putin has made joining the WTO by 2004 a focal point of his foreign policy. His efforts received a big boost earlier this year when both the European Union and the United States said they would recognize Russia as a market economy. Such recognition is an important step before joining the WTO.

During a government meeting Thursday, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov discussed Russia's bid to join the international trade body.

Mr. Kasyanov said Russia is nearing the end of the process of gaining membership in the WTO. The Russian prime minister said Russia knows what is expected of it and that there are now fewer sensitive issues in negotiations between Moscow and the WTO.

The Russian prime minister acknowledged that there are still areas in which Russia and the WTO do not agree, but he said progress is being made.

Mr. Kasyanov added that Russia expects to be admitted to the World Trade Organization on the same terms as any other country.

Russia is one of the few industrialized countries that is not a member of the WTO. Membership in the organization would boost Russia's economy and foreign trade.