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Russia sees no chance of entering WTO in 2003

MOSCOW, May 20 (Reuters) - Russia's chief trade negotiator Maxim Medvedkov said there was now no chance of Russia gaining admission to the World Trade organisation (WTO) in 2003.

"We already will not enter this year," said Medvedkov, a Deputy Economy Minister, at a seminar in Moscow.

Until now, the Russian government has maintained that it wanted to wind up accession negotiations this year even though few people thought it was feasible.

At the beginning of April Medvedkov told Reuters it was still technically possible to complete the talks by the end of 2003.

President Vladimir Putin's government sees accession to the world trade body as a key step in Russia's transition from a Soviet command economy to an open free market one.

Reformers in Putin's cabinet, among them Economy Minister German Greff, see the run up to joining the WTO as an opportunity to push ahead with modernisation in key areas such as customs regulation.

The next scheduled meeting of accession talks to the WTO, which will bring together representatives of 65 countries, is planned for June 7 and no further talks are expected until October or November.

Medvedkov said he believed Russia should make use of the long pause in talks in order to fine tune its negotiating position on WTO entry.

He also said that at present the Economy Ministry was considering introducing changes to parliamentary bills on currency regulation and control which would further ease Russia's currency regime.

In its current form, the bill allows the central bank to require Russian investors wishing to transfer funds abroad to deposit 100 percent of the value of the funds for up to two months.

Inward investors into Russia would be required to deposit 20 percent of the value of the funds for up to one year.

Following China's accession to the WTO, Russia is the last major trading nation not yet to have gained admission to the international trade body.

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