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Russia's admission to the WTO should lay the groundwork for closer economic integration with the European Union
Russia's admission to the WTO should lay the groundwork for closer economic integration with the European Union, the EU trade chief said Wednesday. EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said Russian President Vladimir Putin should clear the remaining obstacles for Russia's WTO membership and iron out trade issues with the European Union before his second, and last presidential term comes to an end next year. "We should strive to resolve the remaining issues between us ahead of next week's EU-Russia summit in Mafra [Portugal]," he said. Poland said Monday it could bar Russia's entry to the WTO if Moscow fails to lift the 2005 embargo imposed on imports of meat and agricultural products. Russia imposed a temporary ban on meat products and fruit and vegetable deliveries from Poland in November 2005, saying Polish companies re-exported the products from third countries representing a threat to sanitary standards. Demanding that Russia lift the embargo, Poland blocked talks on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Russia and the EU. The current agreement expires in December. Another issue is the EU's plan to limit Russian business operations in its energy market. Moscow said last Friday it will ask the WTO to protect its interests if the EU passes laws restricting Russian energy companies' operations on its territory. Russian oil and gas companies, in particular natural gas giant Gazprom [RTS: GAZP], have been looking to expand into Europe. The state company, a leading gas supplier to Europe, considered buying Britain's largest gas distribution company Centrica last year, but U.K. authorities blocked the takeover fearing excessive dependency on Russian supplies. The EU plans to pass new laws to reform its energy market and divide companies into producers and sellers. These legislative initiatives, if adopted, will make it difficult for Gazprom to acquire assets in Europe.
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