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  Thursday, May 26, 2022
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Russia and Australia plan to sign a bilateral protocol on Russia's bid to join the 149-member global trade body in late February
Russia and Australia plan to sign a bilateral protocol on Russia's bid to join the 149-member global trade body in late February, a senior Russian official said Monday. "We are maintaining an intensive dialogue with Australia at the moment," said Andrei Kushnirenko, deputy director of the trade talks department at the Economic Development and Trade Ministry. "We have brought our positions considerably closer together, and the signing [of the agreement] is in the offing." Kushnirenko said both countries were planning to strike the bilateral World Trade Organization (WTO) deal by late February and they were likely to reach the deadline. Australia is one of the three countries on the 58-member Working Party on Russia's accession to the WTO whose approval is yet to be obtained by Russia, the other two being the United States and Colombia. A bilateral agreement with Colombia is being drafted at the moment, according to Kushnirenko. A meeting of Russian WTO negotiators and U.S. experts will also take place in late February or early March in Geneva, and Russian Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref and U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman are expected to meet in March. Kushnerenko said the meeting would most likely wrap up bilateral WTO talks between Russia and the U.S. One of the chief U.S. concerns has been greater access to Russia's financial services market, whereas the latter, seeking to protect its weak banking sector, only allows the opening of foreign banks' subsidiaries, not branches. Meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow Saturday ahead of a meeting of finance ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized nations, chaired by Russia in 2006, U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow said the U.S. was ready to complete the talks as soon as possible. Other issues Russia is to tackle at the WTO negotiations include farm trade barriers and import duties on aircraft, cars, and other products. The Working Party is also expected to gather in late February or early March. Russia's latest WTO deal was the February 6 bilateral agreement with India, which formalized the completion of their talks on Russia's joining the organization
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