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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Georgia allows Russia to join WTO

By Margarita Antidze

TBILISI, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Russia and Georgia will formally sign an agreement on Nov. 9 that paves the way for Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization after 18 years of talks, a senior Georgian negotiator told Reuters on Friday.

A deal with Georgia is the last major hurdle to Russian entry which would open up its $1.9 trillion economy and cement its integration into the global trade system two decades after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.

"The whole package of documents will be formally signed on November 9 in Geneva," Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergi Kapanadze told Reuters by telephone from Geneva after talks.

Kapanadze said Russia had formally informed Georgia that it agreed with the compromise deal worked out with the help of Swiss mediators, and added the document would be initialled on Saturday.

"The Russian side confirmed that they agree to the proposals," said Kapanadze. "We are very glad that Russia has finally made this decision."

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday that Russia accepted the Swiss compromise, which focuses on trade between Russia and two Georgian rebel regions it supports, and that he hoped to have WTO entry tied up by the end of the year.

Equity traders say confirmation that Russia would finally join the WTO could push investors to buy shares in Russian companies, driving up benchmark stock indexes .

Some technical issues remain to be discussed, including a mandate for a company that will monitor trade in the two Georgian rebel regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

If the bilateral accord is completed before the Nov. 10-11 WTO working group meeting, Russian entry could be approved at the Dec. 15 conference of WTO trade ministers in Geneva.

Entry also needs the approval of the Russian parliament, which is controlled by the ruling party of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.