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18 December 2002

Working Party on the Accession of the Russian Federation

Concluding remarks by the Chairman

This has been a very useful meeting, particularly insofar as it has reinforced our general desire to move the process forward on all fronts without allowing specific subject-matters to lag behind. I am particularly encouraged that in response to Deputy Prime Minister Kudrin's call for urgency I now sense common agreement that we are in a position to put in place an accelerated programme of work for the first half of next year on the understanding that genuine efforts will be made on all sides to engage quickly on the negotiating issues with a view to finding solutions as quickly as possible in an orderly, phased manner.

In choosing our future methods of work, I suppose our central concern should be to avoid duplication and wastage of time, the latter being particularly important because of the increasing pressure on Members due to the preparations for Cancun.

I suppose our first step should be to start marking in our calendar the periods during which we should gather in Geneva to work on Russia's accession process. I think we all agree that it should be an ambitious schedule. Looking at my calendar I would propose to reserve three slots, each of about one week's duration, before Easter, that is the middle of April.

My proposal would be as follows:

  • the week starting 27th January;
  • the week starting on 3rd March; and
  • the week starting 7th April 2003.

Subsequently we will decide on future scheduling in the light of the progress we would make.

I should also indicate that I see these gatherings as a mix of informal and formal meetings of the Working Party together with a combination of bilaterals and plurilaterals on specific issues, as well as my own consultations with interested delegations to make progress on certain subjects. I realize that what I am proposing is complex. I believe, however, that it is difficult to avoid this because of the inter-linkages and wide-varying trade interests involved. Our success will depend entirely on whether we are all able to identify and prepare for the specific issues to be taken up well in advance of each working session. In addition we should also foresee that further plurilateral meetings will continue to be held around the Working Party sessions and other relevant WTO meetings. For instance, as we have already discussed today, we should try to schedule further plurilaterals on agriculture and SPS in conjunction with WTO meetings on these related subjects.

Turning now to what we should do next, I would just underline that the speedy inflow of written inputs for examination, and hopefully, for agreement is critical for allowing capitals to structure their negotiating teams and experts, keeping in view manpower and time constraints. In this spirit, I propose that for our January session and possibly that of March, depending on our progress, we particularly focus on the following issues in the draft Report:

  • the chapter on “Economy, economic policies and foreign trade”;
  • the chapter on “Framework for making and enforcing policies”;
  • the section on “Internal taxes on imports”;
  • the section on “Technical regulations and standards, including measures taken at the border with respect to imports”;
  • the section on “Government procurement”;
  • the section on “Regulation of trade in transit”;
  • the chapter on “Free trade and customs union agreements”.

This is of course an indicative list of issues which may be expanded or changed flexibly in keeping with our needs.

To prepare for this challenging process of work I will stress that the examination of the new Russian material should be our central task in January.

We have heard from several delegations today that they have written inputs with them in terms of specific points of clarification needed to flesh-out the draft Report and drafting suggestions both of a technical and substantial nature. I would suggest these inputs be provided on a priority basis to the Secretariat for immediate transmission to the Russian Federation in any case by the first days of January. These contributions, as well as points of concern or proposals that have emerged in Russia's bilateral contacts should be the guidelines for the new inputs required from Russia. This new material from Russia should be circulated in consolidated form in a separate document at the latest by mid-January.

Progress in this work and developments in the Chairman's informal consultations, if any, will of course be regularly reported to meetings of the Working Party during the week to ensure transparency and continuity.

At the conclusion of our January session we should convene at formal level to take stock of progress in Russia's bilateral market access negotiations as well as in the systemic issues of the Draft Report. This concluding session should also establish the next steps in our work.

In order for our further process to function well, it is of particular importance that Russia accelerates and completes the enactment of WTO-related legislation, backed by a detailed description of the implementing regulations in place or being envisaged. This is needed to provide the factual information required from the Russian side to move to a discussion of commitments and terms of entry, once we have established the factual background.

I cannot conclude this session without stressing that when we meet next, we will also need to see substantial progress on Russia's bilateral market access negotiations in goods, agriculture and services. Here, it has been encouraging to hear that Russia will be making efforts to conclude all their bilaterals by Spring next year. This will also be a challenge for all of you — a task that would need to be tackled urgently and with flexibility all around.