President Dmitry Medvedev said that Russia will not withdraw state subsidies for farmers if it joins the WTO, which Moscow hopes will happen later this year after 18 years of accession talks.

Russia is the biggest economy outside the World Trade Organisation and Medvedev’s comments underlined its robust stand on free trade rules.

“We are not talking about any restrictions on state support of agricultural producers after accession to the WTO,” Medvedev told a meeting on crops and grain markets.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said earlier this month that Russia would not give up new rules for vehicle assembly for major global manufacturers to win WTO entry.

Medvedev said that about $9 billion would be spent on agricultural subsidies up to 2012, with a gradual decrease seen by 2017. He also stressed that Russia retained the right to increase import duties on some products to help its farmers.

“The level of customs protection on agricultural products will remain sufficient (after WTO accession), and Russia will have the right to increase import duties on some of these products,” he said. (Reuters)