GENEVA Dec 13 President Vladimir Putin's summit
in Brussels next week may be the last chance to avoid a trade
row between Russia and the European Union escalating into a
legal battle at the World Trade Organization.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht told reporters in
Geneva on Thursday that Russia needed to change its
"Next week we have a summit meeting with Mr Putin in
Brussels but if they do not remedy what they have been - how do
I say it? - wrongdoing in recent months we will have to take
action. I hope they realise that they have to do something about
it and do it quickly," De Gucht said.
He stopped short of saying the row needed to be resolved at
the summit but said it would be "an important meeting" in the
process, and reiterated the EU's threat of WTO action.
"Let there be no doubt that if it continues like it is now
we will see each other back in Geneva."
While the EU is upset about Russia's restrictions on
livestock, cars and wood, Russia has a problem with EU energy
rules that threaten Russian control of a European gas pipeline.
Russian gas export firm Gazprom has a 51 percent
stake in the Nord Stream pipeline running from Russia from
Germany, but EU law prohibits energy suppliers from dominating
Russia regards the rules as a trade restriction and could
bring the case to the WTO, four months after it joined the body.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Wednesday
that regulators, companies and the European Commission would
meet next week to discuss Russian concerns and the possibility
of giving Gazprom a waiver.
Russia joined the WTO in August after an 18-year negotiation
and an eight-month wait for ratification. Some trade diplomats
suspect that, unlike China, which took years to become a
prominent player in the WTO's dispute settlement system, Russia
will quickly become embroiled in litigation.
Moscow and Washington have not even begun their WTO
relationship, since the United States has not passed legislation
to normalise trade relations with Russia, but they already show
signs of getting off on the wrong foot.
In a statement released on Saturday, U.S. Trade
Representative Ron Kirk and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
said Russia's new testing requirements on U.S. beef and pork
exports "appear to be inconsistent with its obligations" to the
WTO, implying that the case could eventually lead to litigation.