|Russian Foreing Minister Sergei Lavrov|
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday denied reports that the latest round of bilateral negotiations with the United States on Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization had been a failure.
The talks, held near St. Petersburg Friday ahead of this weekend's Group of Eight summit, produced no final deal on Russia's admission to the world's largest trade body, primarily over disagreements over Russia's barriers to U.S. beef and pork. But substantial progress was reportedly made on other contentious issues, including copyright law and sales of manufactured goods.
Speaking at a news conference on the sidelines of the current G8 summit, Lavrov said: "It was decided to continue the talks, to complete them in October, so that the issue of Russia's WTO accession can be resolved by March."
"We have more than once found ourselves in a situation where our American partners are not ready to make a definitive decision. The U.S. government is a complex mechanism. So I would not over-dramatize the matter," the minister said. "Of course, it would be good [for Russia] to join the WTO, [thereby] securing an advantage for some of our economic sectors. But we have other opportunities to develop our economy."
Lavrov also said Russia was ready to discuss additional requirements for accession to the WTO, but only on the condition of reciprocity.
"We will not take on additional commitments, outside WTO standards. We will discuss broader, non-standard, requirements, if our partners reciprocate."
Russia's economics minister, German Gref, on Saturday called U.S. meat imports "the main stumbling block" in the WTO accession talks. He said Russian negotiators had refused a U.S. demand for an immediate increase in beef and pork imports before a review of the American veterinary control system, due to be finished in October. But the protection of intellectual property rights was no longer an issue in the talks, he said.
Russia is the largest economy outside the WTO, and the United States remains the only country with which it has not yet reached a deal on accession to the 149-nation organization.