Russia hopes to complete all the technical procedures necessary for accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the first half of 2006, Maxim Medvedkov, director of the trade negotiations department of Russia’s Economic Development and Trade Ministry, told a briefing Tuesday.

Russia plans to complete bilateral negotiations with WTO members in December this year, Medvedkov said.

Officials earlier named January 2006 as the earliest possible date for WTO accession, if Russia gets approval at the WTO conference in Hong Kong this December.

However, speaking in Washington last month, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said that Russia would probably miss its year-end deadline for joining the WTO because it needs more time for talks with key members, including the US.

It will take WTO officials two or three months to combine all the bilateral protocols, signed by Russian and WTO members, into a single table, Medvedkov said Tuesday.

A work group on Russia’s WTO accession will have to prepare the final report, which is then to be approved by the WTO General Council. The Russian State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, is to ratify the document on Russia’s WTO accession after that.

Medvedkov also said that the Russian government would like to increase subsidies to the agricultural sector to U.S. $10 billion annually from current $3.5 billion after it joins the WTO. Russia is not to reduce import duties on agricultural products after WTO accession, he added. (PRIME-TASS News Agency)