| MOSCOW, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- With only a few issues hanging, Russia may complete talks on joining the World Trade Organization as soon as April, the Economic Development Ministry said.
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Maxim Medvedkov, head of the ministry's Trade Negotiation Department, said a new round of talks will begin in Geneva, Switzerland, next week, The Moscow Times reported Wednesday.
"It's technically possible to complete the talks in April", Medvedkov said, which would allow accession by early 2012.
Russia reached agreement on 99 percent of issues, including passing legislative amendments to comply with the organization's norms, said Medvedkov, who also heads Russia's delegation on joining the WTO.
Issues to be discussed in Geneva include the size of Russia's agricultural subsidies after joining the WTO and meat import quotas, Medvedkov said.
The government plans to double agricultural subsidies by 2012, providing a total of $9 billion annually to support farmers, but could later reduce that amount to between $4 billion to $4.5 billion over the next five to seven years, the Times reported.
The ministry official said a compromise on meat import quotas should be worked out "to create a balance between the interests of producers and consumers."
Medvedkov said Russia was in talks with about a dozen countries about the size of the quotas.
He said he wasn't concerned about Georgia's demand to allow its customs officials be stationed on internationally recognized borders with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia is a member of the trade organization; WTO rules state any of its 153 members may veto Russia's accession.
"We hope that this problem won't stop our accession", Medvedkov said. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
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