St Petersburg, 4 June 2009 - EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton and the Russian Minister for Economic Development, Elvira Nabiullina, met in St. Petersburg to discuss Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), as well as bilateral trade issues. The two sides showed a commitment to be flexible on all open issues regarding Russia’s WTO accession.
They agreed that Russian WTO membership should be sought as soon as possible, and that discussions would now continue between chief negotiators.
Commissioner Ashton said: “I welcome the commitment Minister Nabiullina has shown today. We have a common understanding on the gaps that need to be bridged now. We have agreed that WTO accession should be completed before the end of this year.”
The talks today came following yesterday’s comments by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that Russia remained committed to WTO membership despite the economic downturn. The EU-Russia Summit in Khabarovsk on 22 May had confirmed the commitment of both sides to Russian accession to the WTO.
Russia began the accession process to the WTO in 1993. The European Union completed bilateral talks on accession with Russia in May 2004, and has engaged with Russia in the context of the multilateral process. Throughout the accession process, the EU has strongly supported Russia's WTO membership. The main outstanding issues still remaining are Russian export duties, including on timber, the level of railway fees for goods in transit through Russia and the restrictions on imports of meat, milk and plant products.
The EU and Russia have a strong and interdependent trade relationship. The EU is by far Russia's main trading partner and investor. Russia is the EU's third largest trading partner. Between 2000 and 2008 bilateral trade in goods nearly tripled in value to EUR 278 billion in 2008. However, in the first months of 2009, trade contracted as a result of the economic crisis. Approximately 80% of Russia's foreign capital stock comes from the EU.