Sunday, June 27, 2010

Obama: U.S. Strongly Backs Russia's World Trade Organization Bid

By Stephen Kaufman - Staff Writer

Washington - President Obama urged U.S. and Russian trade negotiators to accelerate their talks on Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) with the goal of finding agreement on the remaining technical issues by September 30.

"We think it is not only in the interest of the Russian Federation but in the interest of the United States and in the interest of the world that Russia joins the WTO. So this is something that we want to get resolved," the president said in remarks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the White House June 24.

Obama said approximately 90 to 95 percent of the technical differences have already been resolved, although the remaining issues "are going to require some significant work."

The Russian and U.S. governments are putting the same pressure on their negotiators as they did in 2009-2010 to finalize the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), and Obama is instructing the U.S. side to "try to come to terms with the technical issues that remain by the fall," in order to create "a sense of urgency on the part of our team," he said.

Some agreements would require modifications in Russian law to meet international standards, the president said, and the U.S. delegation "will be very specific and very clear about the technical issues that Russia still faces." But Obama expressed confidence that the agreements will be reached and said President Medvedev's vision of "an innovative, modernized, energized economy" is "entirely consistent with Russia's joining the WTO."

According to a June 24 White House fact sheet, the United States and Russia intensified their discussions on Russia's WTO accession after Moscow finished work on forming a customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan. A Russian delegation led by First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov arrived in Washington on April 27 to meet with senior Obama administration officials, and the visit resulted in a road map of steps Russia would need to take to accelerate its accession. According to the fact sheet, the United States also pledged additional technical assistance to help Russia revise its WTO Working Party Report by taking its new customs union into account.

The fact sheet said that Obama and Medvedev agreed to try to settle remaining issues on Russia's WTO accession by September 30, anticipating Russia's full implementation of a mutually agreed-upon action plan, as well as taking into account the progress it has already achieved, including an agreement with the United States on the treatment of Russian state-owned enterprises.

President Obama said the June 24 agreement to resolve a multibillion-dollar trade dispute over U.S. exports of poultry to Russia is "an indication of the seriousness with which President Medvedev and his team take all of these trade and commercial issues."

With more favorable Russian views of the United States, the two countries have moved beyond "resetting" their bilateral relationship to broadening their ties, including in trade, commerce and collaboration on energy efficiency and clean energy technologies, he said.

"[Twenty] years after the end of the Cold War, the U.S.-Russian relationship has to be about more than just security and arms control. It has to be about our shared prosperity, and what we can build together," Obama said.

President Medvedev said most of the substantive issues concerning the WTO accession talks, including discussions over encryption and intellectual property, have already been resolved.

"There are some remaining technical minor problems. And our teams have been instructed to work as fast as possible. And we hope ... that the work will be finalized by the end of September this year," he said.

The Russian leader encouraged U.S. investment in his country's new center of innovative developments in Skolkovo, located outside Moscow, and said Russian business leaders are carefully studying how to apply the best practices and some examples from California's Silicon Valley technology hub.

"We should provide a stimulus to our businessmen to be more attentive and helpful toward each other, to invest funds in each other's economies," Medvedev told Obama, with the goal of taking steps "so that the level of economic investment cooperation is in line with the potential of the U.S. and the Russian economies."

(by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State)