21:40 GMT +321 March 2018
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    MOSCOW, MARCH 2. /RIA NOVOSTI / -- Russian Ministry for Economic Development and Trade (MERT) hopes before the end of this year to complete talks on Russia's joining the World Trade Organisation, deputy minister Maxim Medvedkov, leading the Russian delegation at the talks, told journalists on Tuesday.

    "We do not rule out the possibility of ending the talks this year. We want it very much. This may happen in the beginning of the next year at the latest", Medvedkov said.

    He hopes that the talks with the main trading partner, the European Union, will be over before the end of May. After expansion, the EU will account for over a half of Russia's foreign trade turnover.

    Medvedkov said that on March 26 a regular round of talks "at the Lami (EU trade commissioner)-Gref (Russian acting minister for economic development and trade) level" will be held. Then, the working group for Russia's entry into the WTO will have a sitting in Geneva in late March. The MERT ministry has already tabled its materials for the sitting of the ten sections of the working group's report, which will underlie the agreement on Russia's entry.

    Within the framework of the negotiating process in Brussels, bilateral negotiations with seven to eight countries on tariffs on individual commodities and services are under way, Medvedkov said.

    He also said that on Thursday, March 4, negotiations will begin in Brussels on the expansion of the European Union. They will consider steps to cut possible losses of Russia from the EU expansion, scheduled for May 1 this year.

    Refusing to comment on the earlier reached agreements to this effect, Medvedkov assured journalists that "for Russia the effect will be neutral-positive". "Russian steel makers will be pleased" with the results of the talks, he promised.

    Commenting on the course of talks with other partners in trade, Medvedkov said that agreement has been reached with the United States that Russia will continue to subsidise own film-making and the present limitations on the participation of foreign capital in the production of Russian films will be lifted.

    Another Russian delegate at the WTO talks, Alexei Likhachev, deputy chairman of the State Duma (the lower chamber of Russian parliament) economic committee, told journalists that the lower chamber is ready to start organisational work for ratification of the future agreement.

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