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Switzerland urges Russia to resolve WTO issues by November


MOSCOW, October 21 (RIA Novosti) - The Swiss economy minister said Friday that Switzerland, currently negotiating Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization, expected Russia to make progress on disputed issues by November.

Joseph Deiss told a news conference in Moscow that if Russia wanted to join the WTO in 2006 and before the organization's 148 members gather for a summit in Hong Kong in December, the disputed issues needed to be resolved by November. For that purpose, Russia will have to make real progress on certain questions, Deiss said.

Deiss said bilateral talks on Russia's accession to the WTO were continuing and, in general, advancing. He said the sides had only failed to agree on the access of Swiss companies, mostly watch and clock makers, to Russian industrial and service markets.

The minister said Swiss banks were interested in the Russian market and that Russia should let them in to encourage competition. Moscow, however, has opposed foreign banks' opening offices in Russia.

In a bid to enter the WTO, Russia has to conclude bilateral agreements all its member countries. In April, the working group on Russia's accession to the WTO said Russia had completed bilateral trade negotiations with 29 WTO members, the European Union counting as one, which represents 50% of the members of the working group.

Deiss said he had met with Russian Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref Thursday to discuss relations between Russia and the WTO, which includes, apart from other members, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.

According to Deiss, Gref said that after Russia joined the WTO, it would sign an agreement providing these four countries with the same trading rights as EU nations.

The officials also discussed the red tape and corruption in Russia, intellectual property rights, and border and customs issues.

Deiss said he had invited Gref to Switzerland in 2006 and the Russian minister had accepted.

Deiss said Russian-Swiss trade topped 2 billion Swiss francs (about $1.6 billion) in 2004. Russian exports to Switzerland increased by 40% to $778 million, and Switzerland's exports climbed by 20% to $934 million.

The Swiss minister said his visit to Russia had been a success and had opened new prospects for bilateral cooperation.

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