US firms push Russia’s WTO bid

Moscow, October 30:

Thirteen big international companies have appealed to Russian president Vladimir Putin and US president George W Bush to speed Russia’s entry in-to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), a representative of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia said today.

Twelve US companies working in Russia and British energy giant Shell wrote a joint letter on Thursday to the two world leaders urging a quick end to contentious bilateral talks on Russia’s joining the WTO, an AmCham representative said. He sa-id he was not authorised to discuss further details about the letter, but described it ‘most accurate’.

Kommersant reported the US signatories included US carmaker Ford, which operates a factory near the northwestern city of St Petersburg, and jetmaker Boeing, which is vying to sell about two dozen new planes to leading Russian airline Aeroflot. The daily quoted AmCham spokesman Alexander Kravtsov as saying the letter called for ‘the quickest possible signing of a commercially viable bilateral agreement’. Russia’s decade-long attempt to join the WTO has been held up by disagreements with US negotiators on intellectual property protections, access to Russian financial services markets and import terms for agricultural products.

Russian negotiators have said the sole remaining disagreement is on veterinary controls at US beef facilities. Russian inspectors are currently tou-ring the facilities. Russia is the only major world eco-nomy not yet a part of the 149-member global body.