KAZAN, May 20 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will start negotiations on a new partnership deal with the European Union only after joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Russian economics minister said Sunday.
"I hope that after entry into the WTO we'll conclude a new treaty with the EU, which will enable us to switch to the regime of free trade zones within five to seven years," German Gref told a business forum organized by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Russia is expecting to complete bilateral negotiations on its accession to the world trade club within three weeks, and all multilateral talks by the end of July.
Russia and the EU were set to begin talks on a new cooperation deal to replace the current 1997 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement expiring in December at the Russia-EU summit in Helsinki last November, but the negotiations were vetoed by Poland, over Russia's ban on its meat exports, and Moscow's refusal to sign the Energy Charter.
Russia has been unwilling to ratify the charter, which was drawn up as a mechanism of cooperation between Western and Eastern Europe on energy issues and signed at The Hague in 1991, as the document would force it to give foreign investors free access to the country's oil and gas deposits and export pipelines.