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    RUSSIA, EU TO DISCUSS MOSCOW'S WTO MEMBERSHIP

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    MOSCOW, May 21, (RIA Novosti) - Russia and the EU aim to sign an agreement on completing talks as regards Russia's admission into the World Trade Organization (WTO) here today.

    This revelation was made on the eve of the forthcoming Russia-EU summit in Moscow by Russia's Economic Development and Trade Minister Gherman Gref, as well as EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, who head Russian and EU delegations.

    The Government of Russia has given us the go-ahead to reach this accord with you today, Gref told EU experts headed by Lamy.

    The sides continued to negotiate until the evening of May 20; we were bent on completing these talks prior to the summit, negotiators said.

    The talks will also continue in the evening of May 21 and, if necessary, next morning, so that we could complete them prior to the May 21 summit, Lamy told reporters during a break in the talks.

    For his own part, Gref said the sides still had to discuss some three-four issues. Gref didn't go into details, merely saying that such issues were linked with the service sector.

    Technically speaking, we have agreed on a concept making it possible to reach a final compromise, the Russian Minister noted.

    We've been allowed to sign the relevant agreement with the EU, if we reach such accords, Gref added. The success of today's talks would make it possible to end that six-year marathon concerning WTO-membership talks, Gref stressed.

    Meanwhile EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, who heads the EU delegation, said that, according to his previous statements, the sides still had to coordinate some 10-15 percent of all positions. Right now, one gets the impression that we'll finalize these agreements, Lamy noted.

    Tariffs for various goods were coordinated during our discussion with European colleagues, a Russian-delegation member later said.

    We managed to reduce import tariffs by a small margin (1.5 percent, on the average), the agency's interlocutor stressed. Average EU-import tariffs will plunge from 11.9 percent down to 10.5 percent, mostly by charging lower duties on imported production equipment, he noted.

    Such production equipment accounts for 37 percent of total EU imports, he said. Meanwhile agriculture-produce tariffs won't go down, he added.

    Foreign-car duties will only be reduced by 2012, that is, after a transitional period winds up.

    The delegations also discussed agriculture-sector subsidies.

    We agreed that the EU will support our position during a multilateral discussion involving other WTO members, the source noted, adding that Russia insisted on annual sectoral subsidies to the tune of $13 billion.

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