Finally welcoming Russia into the WTO?
World Trade Organization headquarters in Geneva
KAI RYSSDAL: There's nothing like a deadline to concentrate the mind. Works in journalism. Looks like it works in global trade negotiations, too. There are reports today Washington and Moscow are close to an deal that would let Russia join the World Trade Organization. The deadline in question is the meeting of G8 industrialized countries that starts this weekend in St. Petersburg. The US had been the last holdout against Russia joining the WTO. Here's more from Marketplace's Bob Moon in New York.
BOB MOON: After putting Russia off for more than a decade, the US now seems eager to close a deal and clear the way for Russia's membership in the WTO. Russia remains the only major nation outside the cooperating trade group.
Some groups that have long pushed for more concessions from Moscow now appear ready to endorse an agreement. Cal Cohen heads a coalition of industry groups called the Emergency Committee for American Trade. He's encouraged that the Bush administration is playing up hopes for a deal:
CAL COHEN: It's certainly a good sign, because it's in our interest to see Russia playing by the rules that all other countries are now playing by.
Before any country can join the World Trade Organization, all 149 member nations must agree. The US is the last holdout, and Cohen believes that has helped Washington drive a hard bargain. But others suggest President Bush might be watching the clock on his remaining time in office, and thus be more willing to bargain. Ed Gresser follows trade issues for the Progressive Policy Institute:
ED GRESSER: I think the administration's looking for some good news. Maybe it's made as much progress as it thinks it's going to make, or maybe Russia's really given up the key things that it's been asking for. And if they don't reach a deal in the days before this summit in Moscow, when Putin has all the incentive to show good news to his country, then it may be that they wouldn't reach an agreement for some time to come — maybe a year or more.
Officials with the US Chamber of Commerce in Moscow told reporters today they expect some immediate benefits from such a deal, including the subsequent sale of 22 new Boeing jetliners to Russia's Aeroflot.
In New York, I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.