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Russia signs bilateral trade deal with UAE

Russia took a step closer to joining the World Trade Organization on Sunday when the country’s finance minister signed a bilateral accession agreement with the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi.

Alexei Kudrin, who leads Russia’s WTO accession talks working group and is said to be outgoing-President Vladimir Putin’s chief authority on economic issues, called Sunday’s protocol a key achievement on the road to the WTO. “The agreement signed here is testament to the two sides’ intentions to develop and fortify bilateral cooperation in the economic sphere within a framework of the multilateral trade system,” RIA Novosti news agency quoted Kudrin saying in Abu Dhabi.

Russia, the largest economy outside the WTO, has just two WTO-member countries to conclude bilateral deals with before the road to membership is clear. Kudrin’s travels take him to the first of the last countries, Saudi Arabia, next week. Ex-Soviet neighbor Georgia, which threatened to veto Moscow’s WTO bid in 2006 over border control issues in two unrecognized breakaway republics, will likely remain Russia’s final negotiation partner. Kudrin last month said WTO membership would be the next major milestone in Russia’s economic development after the 2006 liberalization of capital movement, but declined to predict an accession date. (Reuters)