Trade MEPs back deals with Russia

The European Parliament's International Trade Committee has endorsed four agreements with Russia that give the EU exclusive trading benefits.

The new deals cover Russian wood exports, trade in car parts, duties on raw materials and the services market. They pave the way for Russia to join the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The four bilateral agreements, which need Parliament's consent to enter in force, are in fact more favourable to the EU than they have to be under WTO rules. The plenary vote by the European Parliament is expected in July.

Russia should then join the WTO by the end of the summer.

The deal on tariff-rate quotas for Russian exports of wood will boost the supply from Russia, which has agreed to cut export duties from current levels and grant the EU relatively large quotas for lower-duty Russian exports. The agreement defines the rules for applying these quotas and prevents Russia from applying unpredictable increases to export duties, which have affected many EU producers in the past.

The deal on car components protects EU auto part companies hit by Russian measures that will remain in force until 2018, even after Russia joins the WTO. These measures give foreign auto manufacturers incentives to relocate to Russia, and could discriminate against Russian imports of foreign car components.

Russia has also agreed to binding export tariffs for 80% of the raw materials it exports.

The remaining 20% are materials of strategic importance for EU industries. Under the deal, Russia will consult and negotiate with the EU at least two months before it plans to increase export duties on the products listed in the agreement.

This list includes agricultural products such as wheat, sunflower seeds, tobacco, animal skins, wool and cotton and a large number of earths and minerals.

Finally, the agreement on trade in services grants new opportunities for EU maritime transport agencies seeking to set up in Russia. It gives preferential access to people working for European services companies who need to work in Russia in order to start a business there.

The EU foresees a minimum quota of 16,000 work permits per year in this context.

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