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Russia hopes to conclude WTO talks with Vietnam next week - 1

(Adds details, background in paras 3-11)

MOSCOW, June 22 (RIA Novosti) - Russia hopes to complete bilateral talks on its accession to the World Trade Organization with Vietnam next week, a Russian economics ministry official said Friday.

"A round of talks with Vietnam will be held in Moscow next week, and we hope to complete these talks," Maxim Medvedkov, the director of the Economic Development and Trade Ministry's trade talks department, said.

Earlier Medvedkov said that Russia, the largest economy outside the 150-nation trade alliance, also planned to complete bilateral talks on WTO admission with Guatemala and Cambodia.

After the completion of talks with these three countries, Russia will only have to agree with Georgia and Saudi Arabia on WTO accession. In early June, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said Russia plans to join the global trade body in the end of this year.

Medvedkov also said Russia will send Georgia a response to its claims against Russia joining the WTO. "We still believe that our counterparts' arguments that the key issue in Russia's accession to the WTO is the legal functioning of checkpoints are not convincing," he said.

Russia earlier said it was planning to complete all bilateral and multilateral negotiations on WTO entry by mid-summer, but failed to reach an agreement at bilateral talks with Georgia in May.

Georgia said it would cease to block Russia's bid to join the WTO only after Moscow honors its 2004 commitment to close down checkpoints on its border with Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But the Kremlin insisted that this was not a WTO-related issue.

Medvedkov also said Russia hopes to resume multilateral talks in Geneva on the entry issue in mid-July. "We hope in mid-July our talks will resume in Geneva," he told an Internet conference. "We really hope that we will be able to cross the finishing line this year."

The ministry official's deputy, Andrei Kushnirenko, said Friday Russia plans to complete bilateral talks with Cambodia on WTO admission and sign relevant documents in July. He said that after these are signed, Russia will only have to resolve issues with Georgia and Saudi Arabia.

Medvedkov said Russia's export-oriented sectors will gain the most from admission to the trade body. However, he said that the country's membership fee after admission could amount to several million dollars annually.

"I don't know what the membership fee will be after the joining, it is calculated depending on participation in the WTO, and our share in the world trade system. According to our estimates, it will be several million dollars," Medvedkov said, adding that presently Russia pays about $20,000.

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