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Russia and the United States will sign a protocol on the former's accession to the world's largest trade body July 14 or 15
Russia and the United States will sign a protocol on the former's accession to the world's largest trade body July 14 or 15, the finance minister said. In what appears to be a major breakthrough in difficult talks, Alexei Kudrin said the two countries had no contradictions on financial conditions of Russia's accession to the WTO. "We have agreed to the opening of branches of foreign insurance companies [in Russia] but have insisted that no branches of foreign banks will be opened in Russia," he said, referring to the contentious issue of access to the financial services market. Washington had previously insisted that its banks be granted permission to open branches in Russia, but Moscow steadfastly rejected the idea, saying the Russian banking system was too weak to withstand foreign competition. Russia has now signed bilateral protocols with 57 members out of the 58-member Working Party on its accession to the world's largest trade body, and the United States is the only WTO member state with whom Russia has yet to resolve contentious issues in the way of its WTO membership. Russia's Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref and new U.S. trade representative Susan Schwab are discussing a number of issues that have so far stalled the negotiation process. Other issues include intellectual property rights, import duties and agricultural subsidies. Alexander Zhukov, a deputy Russian prime minister, said Tuesday that he hoped the WTO talks would be completed by the end of the week. U.S. President George Bush - who said Monday he was "optimistic" that a deal could soon be clinched - is due in St. Petersburg Friday for a meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on the eve of Russia's debut summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations.
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