Russia: WTO Becomes Long-Term Issue For Relations With U.S.

Posted on Tuesday, July 25 at 13:57 by jensonj
During Putin's talks with U.S. President George W. Bush the day before the summit, the two leaders discussed the full spectrum of bilateral and international relations, including nuclear and energy security, nonproliferation, international terrorism, and developments in the Middle East. While not the most important issue on the agenda, Russia's effort to join the WTO was seen as a matter of prestige for the Kremlin. Joining the global trade bloc would be seen as a landmarks in Putin's efforts to restore Russia's status as a great power, while also signaling that the recent trend of deteriorating U.S.-Russian relations had come to an end. On the eve of the summit, Russian media took great pains to present the deal as a fait accompli. The country's major newspapers claimed that Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref, who heads Russia's WTO talks, had reached a compromise with the United States under which it agreed to open its insurance market while maintaining its defiance of U.S. demands regarding banking reforms. But when Bush and Putin appeared together during their joint press conference on July 17, they announced that no deal had been reached. Putin tried to downplay the development, saying that his good personal relations with President Bush allows the two leaders to look out for their nations' interests and to have occasional differences, while still maintaining a constructive dialogue. The reason for failure to reach an agreement on the WTO, according to sources from both sides, was discord over Russia's scrutiny of U.S. inspections of pork and beef exported to Russia. The United States argued that its stringent inspection methods are proven, and thus Russia's questioning of them is excessive. [Editor's note: Related - EU blames the US for WTO talks failure. Other stories have Canada blaming the US, the US blaming South America . . . Dr C]


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