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  Friday, October 18, 2019
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Russia and Sri Lanka have signed a bilateral protocol on Russia's accession to the global trade body
Russia and Sri Lanka have signed a bilateral protocol on Russia's accession to the global trade body, the economics ministry said Friday. To join the WTO, Russia must still sign a protocol with the United States, Costa Rica and Moldova, and renegotiate its entry with Georgia, which has withdrawn its signature. "Thirty minutes ago, we signed a bilateral protocol with Sri Lanka ending [bilateral] negotiations on Russia's WTO membership," Andrei Kushnirenko, a senior official in the economics ministry, said. Russia's Minister of Economic Development and Trade German Gref and Sri Lankan Trade Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle signed the document. "The protocol signed on Russian conditions crowns nine years of complex negotiations, which continued until the last minute and personally involved Mr. Gref and the Sri Lankan president," Kushnirenko said. He said customs duties on tea were the main issue at the talks, because tea accounts for 96% of Sri Lanka's exports. "We have agreed to cut customs duties on tea bags from 20% to 12.5% in three to four years," he said, adding that duties on unpacked Ski Lankan tea would also be reduced from 5% to 0% within a year of Russia's accession to the WTO. Those two conditions will open the Russian market to Ski Lankan tea and simultaneously maintain privileges for Russian companies, who will enjoy reduced duties on unprocessed tea. Russia and the United States have completed bilateral negotiations on the WTO, and their presidents are expected to sign a bilateral protocol on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, November 19. Russia has been in talks on its WTO membership for six years. After all bilateral protocols are signed, it will take another six months to complete multilateral negotiations and enter the organization.
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