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Russia is not going to join plurilateral WTO committees before becoming a member of the World Trade Organization
Russia is not going to join plurilateral WTO committees before becoming a member of the World Trade Organization, a Russian official said Tuesday. "Russia is not willing to join any voluntarily associations within the framework of the WTO prior to its accession to this organization," said an informed source in the Russian delegation at the sixth WTO Ministerial Conference, which opened Tuesday in Hong Kong. He said this was a matter of principle and was important in the context of negotiations with the United States on Russia's accession to the WTO. "The U.S. is demanding that we join the Trade in Civil Aircraft Committee, whose members have dropped import duties on all aircraft," the source said. "We are not ready to join the agreement at present." In fact, civil aircraft, along with agriculture, banking and energy, is one of the problem areas preventing Russia from concluding bilateral agreements with some WTO member countries. Most WTO agreements are multilateral because they are signed by all WTO members, but plurilateral agreements are signed voluntarily by a fewer members. Russia also intends to take a strong stand on opening up its financial market to foreign banking and insurance companies. "The U.S. wants us to allow American banking and insurance companies to create subsidiaries in Russia, but we cannot and will not do it," the source said, adding that the most the country was willing to do was to allow foreign shareholders to increase their shares in joint financial institutions. Earlier, former chief economist and vice-president of the World Bank Joseph Stiglitz called the U.S. approach toward the talks with Russia "extortion at the gates," meaning that the Americans were trying to extract the maximum possible advantage from the situation. Meanwhile, Rob Portsman, the head of the U.S. delegation to the WTO conference, told a news conference that the U.S. was unlikely to sign a bilateral agreement with Russia on its accession to the organization by the end of the year because there were some questions that remained to be solved. The delegate said he expected to meet with the Russian minister of economic development and trade to discuss differences concerning the bilateral agreement. He added that Russia had differences with other countries, so it would be unfair to say that Russia's WTO membership depended on the U.S. alone. The WTO has nearly 150 members, accounting for over 97% of world trade, and ministerial conferences are the WTO's highest decision-making body, meeting at least once every two years and providing political direction for the organization.
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