July 14, 2006

US, Russia haggle for WTO deal

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Russia and the United
States resumed marathon talks on Friday aimed at reaching
agreement on Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization
ahead of a Group of Eight summit.

The Kremlin is keen for a deal before the weekend G8 summit
in the northern city of St Petersburg, where President Vladimir
Putin will host world leaders including George W. Bush. The two
leaders were to meet later in the day.

The WTO negotiations went into a third day on Friday
morning in Moscow but broke off for the delegation heads --
U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab and Russian Economy
Minister German Gref -- to fly to St Petersburg, where they
will continue.

"We are going to continue to negotiate throughout the day,"
Schwab's spokesman Sean Spicer said. "There are still several
issues that are unresolved but Ambassador Schwab and Mr Gref
will continue to talk."

"The talks are continuing and will continue in St
Petersburg," a source in Gref's ministry told Reuters.

Russia is the biggest economy outside the 149-nation trade
body and an accord with the United States would eliminate one
of the last remaining obstacles to Moscow's WTO membership.

It would also lend a positive tone to the G8 summit, where
Putin is keen to underline what he sees as Russia's growing
international authority.

Russia has sought entry to the WTO for more than a decade
and Putin has made it one of his top economic priorities.

But a deal with Washington has proved elusive until now,
with key issues such as intellectual property rights and access
to the agriculture market unresolved.

The Kremlin leader has warned that Russia will not damage
its economy to join the body.

Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told Reuters on
Thursday he hoped a deal with the United States could be signed
within "a day or two."