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Moscow may withdraw from WTO agreements

Latest update : 2008-08-25

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has signalled that Russia might break off from some WTO trade agreements considered contradictory to the country's interests, although he would continue negotiating to have Russia join the organization.

Russia signalled Monday it may break off some trade agreements concluded as part of negotiations to join the World Trade Organisation, news agencies reported, quoting from a top ministers' meeting chaired by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

"Russia intends to inform various WTO partners of its withdrawal from accords that contradict its interests," the reports quoted First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov as saying at the "presidium" of top ministers.

Putin gave his assent to the plan set out by Shuvalov, saying: "That is reasonable."

The comments come against a background of deteriorating relations between Russia and the West over Russia's military surge into southern neighbour Georgia.

Over the weekend the German news magazine Der Spiegel quoted US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez as saying Washington's support for Russia's WTO bid could be at stake as a result of Russian actions in Georgia.

Shuvalov laid out a number of objections to the agreements reached so far, mentioning state support for some US companies.

Putin said that withdrawing from some agreements did not mean breaking off talks altogether.

"This doesn't mean we should renounce our strategic course towards the WTO but there should be some clarifications on this question.... Elementary fairness should prevail," said Putin.

The prime minister, who stood down as president in May and remains highly influential, reiterated previous Russian objections to joining the WTO, saying the entry process was placing a heavy load on Russian agriculture.

"It turns out that we don't see or feel any pluses from membership and if there are some, we still carry a burden," Putin said.

"We need to get things clear with our partners.... We need to think most seriously about protecting our manufacturers," Putin added.

Russia has been trying to join the WTO since its inception in 1995.

Its failure to clinch membership makes it the only major economy outside the 153-nation trade body.

Russia's current arch-foe Georgia is already a member of the WTO, giving it a say in Moscow's entry.

Date created : 2008-08-25

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