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Russia's new round of WTO talks to start in Geneva Monday

Russia's delegation will begin Monday a new round of bilateral and multilateral talks on accession to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, and continue negotiations until July 27.

Yury Afanasyev, a delegation member and a senior counselor at Russia's UN mission, said Moscow would hold bilateral negotiations with EU members, the United States, Argentina, Australia and other countries on July 23-24. Multilateral two-day talks to begin Wednesday will include members of the Working Group on Russia's accession to the global trade body. Maxim Medvedkov, director for trade talks at the Russian economics ministry, will head Moscow's delegation.

Multilateral World Trade Organization talks were last held in Geneva in March 2006. High on the agenda are customs regulations, customs duty control, the application of customs procedures and the performance of free economic zones. Medvedkov said earlier that state agricultural subsidies in Russia would be the toughest issue at talks. WTO members consider Russia's projected subsidies of $9.2 billion per year to be excessive. Geneva will also host multilateral consultations on agriculture, and veterinary and phytosanitary regulations, over the five days of talks.

The Russian WTO Accession project has been in progress since September 2005 and is expected to continue until the end of 2007, when Russia may finally join the trade bloc. Russia expects WTO membership to promote market reform and ensure better transparency, while providing a secure business environment for trade and investment. Membership will also help Russia diversify its economy, participate in projects to develop future common trade rules, and secure its interests. (