Consultations on WTO admission to start in Geneva


Consultations on the admission to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) by the Customs Union (of Russia , Belarus and Kazakhstan ) will be launched in Geneva on Monday. During the week delegations from the three countries will hold meetings with such key WTO members as the United States , EU, Canada , Australia , India and China .

The WTO press service told Itar-Tass that the Organisation's official schedule for this week does not contain any events with the participation of the Customs Union, however, confirmed that multilateral informal consultations will be held.

In June, the delegations of Russia , Belarus and Kazakhstan informed the WTO that they suspend individual talks on WTO admission.

Kazakhstani representative at talks on WTO bid Zhanar Aitzhanova told Itar-Tass earlier that “WTO entry is a priority for our three countries – Russia , Kazakhstan and Belarus . That is why we will continue talks.” “However, before our entry we have decided to clearly stipulate those terms that will be common for all three countries,” Aitzhanova said. A negotiating team with Maxim Medvedkov at the head has been set up for that. In reply to a query when will talks on WTO entry within the framework of the Customs Union be ended, she said things would get clearer after consultations in Geneva .

In Washington last week she met with US president's adviser Michael McFall as well as held talks at the office of the US representative at trade talks and at the Department of State. Aitzhanova said that the recent visit to the USA of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and her current consultations have helped to fill that information gap that developed after a statement of the prime ministers of the three countries on WTO entry within the framework of the Customs Union. According to Aitzhanova, now American partners understand better the stance of Astana on those decisions that were taken by the leadership of Russia , Kazakhstan and Belarus .

A code of the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan is ready and will be signed in Minsk on November 27, Chairman of the Belarusian Customs Service Alexander Shpilevsky said earlier. The document will be effective starting from January 1, 2010 .

It will introduce a unified service procedure for all member countries, while the tariff policy of those countries have already been unified by 95 percent and budget problems have already been resolved, Chief of the Russian Customs Service Andrei Belyaninov noted. “The partners have no disagreements. The most favourable conditions have been created for the setting up of the Customs Union,” he said last Friday.

“Starting from July 1, 2010 , the customs code will be ratified by the governments of the Union 's member countries,” Head of the Kazakhstani Customs Service Kozy-Korpesh Karbuzov indicated.

According to newly elected chairman of the CIS Council of Customs Services Belyaninov, the 50th meeting of the council focused on the ways for the speediest introduction of advanced information technologies in the customs sector. “It is our major and primary task to set up e-interaction with customs services of the CIS countries,” he noted. In the format of the Council's meeting, the customs services of Russia and Kazakhstan signed a protocol on the procedure of joint customs control.

The negotiations on the terms on which the three Customs Union member-states (Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan) may be admitted to the World Trade Organisation can be completed over a period of 18-24 months, Russian Deputy Economic Development minister Andrei Slepnev said earlier. “On unified conditions this process may be completed within a year and a half, two at the most,” he noted. From the technical standpoint there exist no obstacles to taking the talks to a successful outcome. “As for political ones, it is a very different subject,” he stated.

Slepnev said the negotiators proceeded from the assumption all Customs Union member-states would join the WTO simultaneously and on common conditions. As he dwelt on the formal part of the negotiations, he said that the mandates of all three parties would be preserved, and this would let each country join the WTO independently, should problems occur.

Slepnev acknowledged there were no reasons for the optimism everybody would agree to Russia's admission to the World Trade Organisation by the end of this year. At the same time he recalled that the negotiators had managed to iron out differences over the main unsettled items, such as intellectual property, phytosanitary and veterinary control of meat products, and also medicines-related matters. Common approaches to support for agriculture were agreed on.

Prime-Tass quotes Slepnev as saying the negotiations may be completed pretty soon – the pace of decision-making will largely depend on the partners in the negotiations.