Russia has decided to pursue a separate bid to join the World Trade Organization instead of a joint one with Belarus and Kazakhstan, a top Russian official said on Monday.
"Russia will formalize its membership separately," First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov told reporters. "It would be beneficial to all if Russia is a member of the WTO before we create a single market with Kazakhstan and Belarus."
Russia threw its longtime bid to join the WTO into confusion last year when it said it would join the world trade body as part of a "customs union" with Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Early WTO membership for Russia could help lay the groundwork for the other two countries to join as a customs union, Shuvalov said.
Shuvalov said his meetings in Washington would be aimed at gauging the level of U.S. support for concluding Moscow's entry in the WTO.
"Everybody waits for a strong signal from the American administration that America is interested in having Russia in the WTO," he said.
WTO members were caught by surprise last year when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced Russia would join the WTO in tandem with the two other former Soviet republics.
It came as final negotiations on Moscow's entry seemed to be getting back on track after being derailed by the short war between Russia and its neighbor Georgia in August 2008.
U.S. officials have recently signaled their interest in resuming negotiations with Russia.
"It is worth it for both of us to take a hard look at how we might reenergize Russia's WTO accession bid, despite the considerable complications posed by Russia's decision to enter into a customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus," U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns said in a recent speech.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk is scheduled to meet on Tuesday with Russia's Minister of Economic Development Elvira Nabiullina.
Shuvalov said Russia was preparing possible compromises on the outstanding issues slowing its WTO membership.
"We have prepared different approaches," he said without providing details.
He downplayed any prospect of an immediate breakthrough during his visit.
"I don't anticipate that tomorrow we will have a brilliant solution for everything," he said, adding that the issue could eventually require a meeting between Obama and Medvedev.
"If our level is not sufficient, we will go to the presidents, like with the START treaty," he said.
ReutersLast Mod: 26 Nisan 2010, 21:27