MOSCOW, June 9 (RIA Novosti) - Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan intend to join the WTO as a single customs union, not individually, the Russian prime minister said on Tuesday.
Speaking after a meeting of the three countries' premiers, Vladimir Putin said the World Trade Organization would be "duly informed" of the decision. He added that the customs union should be active in 2010.
First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said Russia would request that the WTO stop Russia's national-level accession talk.
Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said the three countries would start WTO accession talks in 2010 as members of a single customs union.
An economics ministry official said the new WTO accession talks would not start from scratch, but would build on results already achieved on the national level.
Alexei Likhachev said it was not clear at this stage whether accession would be significantly delayed.
Russia has been negotiating its entry into the WTO for more than 15 years.
To date, Russia has completed mandatory bilateral negotiations with 60 countries concerned, but has yet to synchronize positions on several issues, including agriculture, export duties for timber, and regulation of some state-controlled companies.
Russia is the world's only major economy still outside the WTO. Consent from all 153 WTO members is necessary for a state to join the organization.
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The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is one of the most important foreign policy initiatives taken by Russia along with five other countries. Both Russia and China want to reduce the threat of separatism and western influence in the region. Emergence of SCO provoked new international order.