* Putin says import duty cuts may raise unemployment
* Says WTO membership overall still positive for economy
* Official says no security risks from "Magnitsky list"
By Gleb Bryanski
MOSCOW, Nov 21 Russia's energy-based economy
will take a serious blow from membership of the WTO coupled with
a global slowdown, President Vladimir Putin warned on Wednesday,
singling out the most vulnerable sectors of the $1.9 trillion
Higher unemployment and budget revenue shortfalls were
likely to result from moves to cut some import duties to comply
with WTO rules, Putin said, making domestically produced goods
less attractive to cash-strapped consumers and businesses.
"We should understand that the initial period in WTO will
require a serious adjustment of our economy," Putin told his
Security Council convened to discuss risks posed to national
security by the World Trade Organization membership.
Russia's domestic animal farming, agricultural machinery,
medical equipment, automotive, pharmaceutical, textile and food
sectors were particularly at risk, he said.
"Because of the negative trends in the global economy, the
risks linked to Russia's WTO obligations have grown," he said.
Russia joined the global trade club in August after 18-year
negotiations. Putin said entry talks were helped by the global
economic crisis which made developed economies more willing to
make concessions in order to gain access to new markets.
The president said Russia's so-called mono-cities, where at
least 25 percent of the economically active population work at a
single enterprise, were particularly threatened by measures
resulting from the country's WTO membership.
About 15 percent of the 143 million population live in about
300 mono-cities, a heritage of the Soviet planned economy.
Such cities are potential hotbeds for social unrest and
during the 2008-09 economic crisis the government spent lavishly
and sometimes applied political pressure on owners trying to
keep the enterprises they were built around afloat.
However, overall WTO membership remained positive for the
country's economy, said Putin, who did not question any of
Russia's WTO obligations and added Russia should defend its
interests in the organisation.
Putin, whose health has recently been under close scrutiny
amid reduced appearances and cancelled foreign trips, stuttered
during his speech saying "Russia will always lag behind" instead
of "Russia will always defend its interests", mixing two similar
NORMAL RELATIONS NECESSARY
The Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev also told reporters
on Wednesday a U.S. bill, known publicly as the "Magnitsky
list", was also discussed at the meeting but noted it would not
threaten Russia's national security.
The bill would require the names of people believed
involved in the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer for equity
fund Hermitage Capital who died in jail in 2009, are published,
their U.S. visa applications denied and assets frozen.
Patrushev said the U.S. needed normal trade relations with
Russia "for its own sake" while the bill was dictated by the
U.S. domestic political agenda. He warned that Russia had
"something to respond with" in case the bill was passed.
Government sources say Moscow is also getting ready to
contest European Union energy rules, known as the Third Energy
Package, which restrict Russian gas giant Gazprom's
control over its European pipeline assets.
The EU, Russia's largest trade partner, has criticised
Russia's plans to levy scrappage fees on imported vehicles and a
ban on European live animal imports. The dispute has affected
work on the Russia-EU framework agreement.