"Russia will not join the WTO this year, but next year the prospects of Russia's accession to the WTO are rather high, and that is our goal," said Maxim Medvedkov, who is also the head of the trade talks department at the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade. "Even if we manage to complete the talks by year's end, we will be able to join not earlier than in March 2007," Medvedkov said at a business conference in western Siberia. He said that the parliament would make the final decision by ratifying the documents submitted by the government and the process might take up to three months. Russia's Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said on July 15 that Russia and the United States should sign the protocol on the completion of bilateral negotiations by the end of October, and multilateral negotiations should be completed by the end of March, 2007. The U.S. remains the only country out of the 58-member Working Party on Russia's accession with which Moscow has yet to sign a bilateral protocol. The issue of access to Russia's financial services market has been the main stumbling block in Russia's bilateral negotiations with the U.S. Other issues include intellectual property rights, import duties and agricultural subsidies. The U.S. had been pushing for permission for its banks to open branches in Russia, but a compromise appeared to have been reached in the run-up to the G8 summit, when Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said branches of insurance companies - though not banks - would be allowed to do so. (MoscowTimes)
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