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Russia's WTO accession may speed up partnership talks with EU

STOCKHOLM, November 18 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) could speed up talks on a new partnership agreement between Moscow and the EU, Russia's EU envoy said on Wednesday.

The existing agreement has been temporarily kept in force though it expired two years ago, and a seventh round of negotiations on a fresh deal is due in December.

Ahead of the EU-Russia summit that opened in Stockholm on Wednesday, Vladimir Chizhov said Russia had been pushing for fast and successful WTO talks which "could simplify work to finalize a new [partnership] agreement between Russia and the EU."

He said it could be possible to discuss the next stage of economic integration in the free trade zone as soon as Russia has joined the global trade organization.

Russia has been attempting to enter the WTO for over 16 years. Russia is the only major economically sustainable country that has so far not received membership. Other countries such as Cuba and some ex-Soviet states are already members.

Russian Economy Minister Elvira Nabiullina and European Commissioner for Trade Catherine Ashton held a working meeting on Wednesday morning to discuss progress in WTO talks, bilateral economic cooperation and the economic section of the new EU-Russia partnership deal, Chizhov said.

"We confirmed that accession to the WTO is our goal," he said, adding that Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus would join the organization separately but on a synchronized basis as part of their Customs Union.

The three post-Soviet countries agreed in early June to form a customs bloc. Its Customs Code will be presented for approval to the heads of the three states on November 27, and the Union itself will be launched on January 1, 2010.

In an interview with The World in 2010, the Economist's annual printed edition, published last Friday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said WTO accession remained on the agenda and that Russia hoped "to conclude talks in 2010."

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