USTR - Press Availability with U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick and Russian Federation Minister of Economic Development and Trade German Gref
Office of the United States Trade Representative


Press Availability with U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick and Russian Federation Minister of Economic Development and Trade German Gref
Marriott Hotel Zurich 01/31/2005

USTR Zoellick
:  The Minister and I had an excellent meeting today.  Both our Presidents have placed a very high priority on trying to complete our bilateral work on Russia’s WTO accession.  And as part of that, President Bush wrote a letter to President Putin suggesting that Minister Gref and I meet to review where we stand on the full agenda, and indeed attached a list of specific items that we believed needed resolution.  So the Minister and I and our teams met for about 8 hours today to review every item on that list.  In the area of industrial goods, we made excellent progress, and I think there is only a small number of items that we still need to resolve the tariffs that Russia would have upon accession.

In the area of services, our colleagues came up with possible solutions in a number of areas.  The Minister and I reviewed those and were comfortable with those solutions.  And we will now return to consult with other ministers and our industry to see if these compromises will enable us to close out a number of these sectors since both our Finance Ministers will be meeting next weekend around a G-8 meeting, we will also seek their help in narrowing the differences in the financial sector.

In agriculture, we have only one technical issue left to resolve in the bilateral meat agreement.  And once that issue is solved, as we believe it can be, that will open the way for us to work on the other agricultural issues including the tariffs and working with Russia and other parties on the multilateral agricultural rules, such as subsidies.  And we also agreed to activate a special [bilateral] agricultural trade group that will have representatives of both agricultural and trade ministries to try to solve problems such as sanitary and phytosanitary issues.  We also reviewed a host of systemic issues – these relate to the overall WTO rules.  And I think we have a very shared outlook on how to solve these issues.  We both need to share information with one another about questions that Russia and the U.S. have.  And the U.S. agreed to work with Russia and some other key countries in the WTO to try to help move these issues forward in the WTO working party chaired by Ambassador Johannesson of Iceland.

We also reviewed the need to have effective enforcement in the intellectual property rights area.

To keep progress moving quickly, our teams will be meeting in Geneva [on WTO] in mid-February to try to follow up on some of these items. Of course our Presidents are scheduled to see each other, I think on February 23.  And so we will both report to our Presidents.  And we’ve agreed to try to set up another Ministerial meeting in late March or early April to keep an intense focus on this effort.

So in summary, I think we’ve been able to accelerate work across all the areas.  And I think both sides have a renewed sense of energy.  And I just want to thank Minister Gref for his leadership because many of these items cut across different ministries, so we’re relying on his help to coordinate these within Russia.  And I also want to thank both teams, who met as recently as this week in Paris to try to narrow the gaps on these issues.  So, I come with a sense of a good prospect that if we keep up this momentum, we should be able to reach our bilateral agreement, so that’s the U.S.-Russian agreement on accession, during the course of this year.  And we will work closely with our Russian partners to help work through the multilateral aspects with all 148 economies in the WTO to expedite Russia’s accession, in addition to our bilateral work.

Minister Gref: [translation] Thanks a lot.  [unintelligible] manage to come up with a common language.  And to a great extent of that there is very little left to what my colleague has just said.  [unintelligible] right now.  There are great thanks to Ambassador Zoellick and to Dorothy who flew over to this place without any weekend, and to the whole of the great team on the American side.  We have accomplished rather notable, close and very friendly work which ended a lot for a good result, a good outcome to be achieved, which made us optimistic, upbeat for work in the near future.  I believe that we have every ample opportunity in order to fulfill the assignment as posed by the two of the Presidents to substantially expedite our work, our progress, and to secure the expedient Russian accession to the WTO.  I believe we have every chance to do that.  For this meeting today we will be pursuing a more vigorous effort.  Undoubtedly enough we will achieve that result.

Moderator:  Any questions?  Quickly.

Reporter:  Mr. Zoellick, Mr. Gref, Daniel Pruzin, Bureau of National Affairs.  Do you believe with the progress made at this meeting today that it will be possible to conclude the bilateral agreement early enough to allow Russia to join the WTO at the Hong Kong Ministerial meeting?

USTR Zoellick:   As I said, I believe we should be able to, if we stay on track and we made good progress today and over the past week or so, that we should be able to complete the bilateral accession during the course of 2005.  Second, I discussed with Minister Gref ways that the United States could help with the multilateral accession process.  I can’t speak for the other members and how quickly they will resolve their issues.  So at this point, I think we want to try to complete our bilateral accession by, as soon as possible in 2005, and simultaneously work on the multilateral aspects.

Minister Gref: [translation] A slight addition on my part.   Once we have the negotiations with the United States completed, in due time in that case we will have a very good window of opportunity to have all the things done by the end of December.

Moderator:  Any other questions?  Anyone?

Reporter:  [translation]…managed to settle the pricing issue, the gas pricing issue?

Minister Gref: [translation] I can say we have rather seriously progressed in terms of the understanding of the positions as taken by both sides.  We have in detail discussed this issue.  And we came to understand the sensitivities our partners have.  We have explained away our position, and apparently we have sense a pattern which will allow for the solution to this issue.  And I guess after further consultations and the exchanges of opinion, further we will be in a position to come up with a final solution.

USTR Zoellick:   I would agree with that, but I would just refine for a Russian audience that the U.S. interest in this is probably different than what you probably covered with Europe.  As I discussed with the Minister, we are focused on the narrower issue of energy as an input, particularly for fertilizer.  And the Minister explained some of the broader energy pricing issues, which I was pleased to learn about, but our focus is on solving this narrower issue.  And as the Minister said, I think we have a basis for doing that.

Reporter:  Jacob Greenberg with Bloomberg News.  Did you get any agreement on the access of financial services, insurance companies and particularly the issue of opening of branches across Russia?

USTR Zoellick:   On financial services, we identified the variables we needed to review for securities, banking and insurance.  And I think we’re closer together on many of those variables.  But they are interconnected because depending on the results on one variable, one can be a little bit more flexible on another.  And this in an area where our finance ministers also have an important interest.  So I think it’s probably best that we discuss with them before we report to you.  And we’ll rely on their help too.

Minister Gref: [translation] Well I’ll be late for my plane.

Moderator:  Thank you all.

USTR Zoellick:  And I really want to thank the Minister, he’s done a great job with all of this.

[reporter question off tape regarding the reference to the bilateral meat agreement]

USTR Zoellick:   No, we have an agreement related to tariff rate quotas for pork, and beef, and poultry.  And we had initialed it but hadn’t signed it.  There’s one small technical issue left we have to resolve with that that our teams are working on now.  I don’t know if they’ll finish today or in a couple of days or something.  But then that has to be, the language has to be checked in English and Russian.  But we’re hoping to try to get this done before our President’s meet.

Reporter:  Just a yes or no question – do you expect any major breakthrough when the Presidents meet.

USTR Zoellick:   Major breakthrough?

Reporter:  In the negotiations.

USTR Zoellick:   I think the way that Presidents get breakthroughs is they tell us to do the work and we report to them, in my humble experience.

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