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US Commerce chief Evans upbeat on Russia trip
By Doug Palmer

WASHINGTON, Oct 12 (Reuters) - U.S. Commerce Secretary Don Evans, who heads to Moscow next week, said on Friday he was excited about prospects for U.S. companies doing business in Russia, but warned against expecting quick results.

"I think there are challenges, but I also think there are incredible opportunities," Evans told reporters ahead of three-day trade mission beginning on Monday.

The former Texas oilman will lead a delegation of senior executives from the Boeing Co. <BA.N>, Conoco Inc. <COCb.N>, PepsiCo <PEP.N> unit Frito-Lay International, Pratt & Whitney <UTX.N> , and 10 small and medium-sized firms drawn from the energy, technology, telecommunications and machinery sectors.

Evans, who will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and governors from the Leningrad, Moscow and Samara regions, said it was possible that some deals could be signed during the trip.

"I'll really be excited if we announce something. I'll be proud of our whole team," he said.

But Evans said U.S. businesses should enter Russia for the long haul, rather than a fast profit.

"I wouldn't go over there with the idea (that) ... I'm going to start having some quick rate of return. I would go over there with a very strategic long-term type of plan," he said.

Evans, who visited Russia in July, said he was impressed by Putin's effort to accelerate the country's bid to join the World Trade Organization.

"The sense I certainly get is a team that wants to move that country toward a market-based economy," he said. "We've expressed our support to help in every way that we can."

To get that goal, the two countries have developed a work plan with specific benchmarks along the way, he said.

That is expected to lead to a U.S.-Russia agreement on the terms of Moscow's accession to the WTO, similar to a U.S.-China agreement approved by Congress last year.

How soon negotiations get to that stage remains hard to tell, a Commerce Department official said.

As in the case of China, Russia will have to complete bilateral accession agreements with other key WTO members in addition to the United States, the aide said.

WTO members also have to negotiate a multilateral agreement with Russia "that says how they're going to comply with all the other rules" not covered in the bilateral pacts, he said.

China, which concluded its bilateral accession agreement with the United States in November 1999, is just now on the verge of becoming a WTO member after concluding multilateral negotiations last month.

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