Russia Says WTO Plan Not “New Start” To Talks – Official

Jun 12, 2009. MOSCOW. AFP

Russia Says WTO Plan Not "New Start" To Talks - OfficialMoscow’s plan to unite its World Trade Organization accession bid with that of Kazakhstan and Belarus doesn’t represent a new start in negotiations to the trade group, a top Russian official said Friday.

“Not in any way will Russia backtrack on its current negotiated position,” with the WTO, said First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, who overseas trade questions.

“It would be incorrect to say that we are starting an absolutely new negotiation process,” he said.

Shuvalov’s comments came as the head of the WTO expressed “perplexity” at Russia’s change of tack on joining the trade body.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin surprised the WTO on Tuesday by announcing that Moscow would seek membership as a single customs bloc together with its former Soviet neighbors, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

Shuvalov called for a “smooth transition” from Russia’s long-running accession talks to the three-country bid for WTO membership together.

“We are not talking about some kind of trilateral structure, but, actually, of a united team that will act with one voice,” he said. “Our lawyers are already working on the question.”

Earlier on Friday, WTO chief Pascal Lamy had said that there was “no precedent” for Russia’s proposal to accede to the trade organization.