Thursday, January 25, 2007

Russia Signs Trade Deal With Costa Rica

MOSCOW (AP) - Russia signed a trade agreement with Costa Rica on Wednesday, one of series of bilateral deals it had to conclude on its path to membership in the World Trade Organization.

A Trade Ministry spokeswoman said Russia signed the agreement with Costa Rica in Geneva on Wednesday, two months after it struck a milestone deal with the U.S. on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

Russia, the only major economy outside the WTO, now has only to reach agreement with its tiny ex-Soviet neighbor Georgia, to meet requirements for membership in the 149-member group, which sets global trade rules. Any member can demand a bilateral deal with an applicant.

Georgia withdrew its signature from an earlier deal after Russia imposed a ban on its wine and mineral water last spring.

Relations between Moscow and Georgia worsened in the fall as Moscow slapped a sweeping transport and postal blockade on the country in retaliation for the brief arrest of four Russian officers in Tbilisi accused of spying.

The ministry spokeswoman did not suggest when a deal with Georgia might be made, but said trade officials expect to finish separate multilateral negotiations in July.

The final document sealing Russia's accession can only be signed after ratification by the Russian parliament.

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