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Russia, Saudi Arabia sign WTO accession deal

Interview

Russia and Saudi Arabia signed on Tuesday a protocol on the conclusion of bilateral talks on Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Russia, the only major economy outside the WTO, has been seeking membership in the organization since 1993. So far, Moscow has concluded bilateral talks with over 60 states, but still needs to complete discussions with two WTO members - Georgia and Ukraine.

The document was signed by Alexei Kudrin, Russia’s finance minister and deputy prime minister, and Saudi Commerce and Industry Minister Abdallah bin Zainal ali Reza. The protocol contains arrangements on traditional Saudi exports, such as dates, cement, oil and petroleum products, fertilizers, carpets, glassware, aluminum and aluminum products, and cables. In the services sector, it contains commitments on access to accounting, architectural, consulting, IT, leasing, construction, tourism, transportation, and other services.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s second largest oil producer, had to raise domestic oil prices to global levels before membership to the trade body in 2005, and has made similar demands on Russia. Last Monday, the working group on Russia’s accession met at the WTO headquarters in Geneva and agreed to continue talks at a meeting in mid-June. The talks will have an informal status due to the stance on Russia’s membership taken by Georgia. Tbilisi which became WTO member in 2000, is threatening to block Russia’s accession to the WTO unless Moscow halts support for its breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Kudrin said Tuesday that Russia is very close to joining the global trade body. “We have never been this close to joining the WTO,” he said after the protocol signing in Riyadh. (rian.ru)

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