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Russia to discuss farming subsidies with WTO

Russia will start talks in Geneva on Monday with World Trade Organization members on agricultural subsidies, the last major multilateral issue standing in the way of the country’s WTO membership.

Russia hopes to join the WTO by the end of this year, but will have to overcome objections from WTO member Georgia, which froze bilateral talks in late April. Maxim Medvedkov, Russia’s chief negotiator, said: “Agricultural talks will be held with the participation of Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev.” The current talks round will continue until Friday. Gordeyev will meet with representatives of several countries, including the Cairns Group, a bloc of 19 agricultural exporters.

Russia is insisting on $9 billion-per-year state agriculture subsidies in accordance with the organization’s rules. The figure is around three times the government’s current subsidy level. Georgia announced in April that it would not continue talks on Russia’s WTO bid until Moscow revokes its decision to support Georgia’s breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Medvedkov said that Russia is ready to negotiate with Georgia, but that no talks have yet been scheduled. “We have not yet received any offers from the Georgian side,” he said.

Russia will also have to hold bilateral talks with Ukraine, which joined the WTO last month. Medvedkov said the country has not yet given its official approval for the start of talks. Earlier this month, Russia signed a protocol with Saudi Arabia on the conclusion of bilateral WTO talks. Russia, the only major economy outside the WTO, has been seeking membership in the organization since 1993. (