Russia and Kazakhstan will jointly enter the World Trade Organization if Belarus fails to approve agreements on the Customs Union the three former Soviet states are trying to build, the Russian premier said Friday.
"As soon as Belarus finishes coordinating legal procedures, and, I hope, signs the documents, we will move in the three-country format. Should it not join, the two of us will move ahead," Vladimir Putin told journalists after a meeting of the Customs Union discussion group involving top negotiators from Russia and Kazakhstan. Belarus refused to attend the meeting but the country's premier Sergei Sidorsky spoke to Putin by phone.
In June 2009, Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus notified the WTO of their intention to join the world trade club as a customs union. Four months later, the three former Soviet republics announced they would resume talks on WTO accession separately, but working from synchronized positions.
Putin also said Russia and Kazakhstan will establish a provisional bilateral judicial body as part of the Customs Union with a headquarters in Kazakh capital of Astana.
"We agreed to create a provisional judicial body to resolve judicial disputes that could arise," he said.
The chairman of the Belarus State Customs Committee said Wednesday the Customs Union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan will most likely fail to agree on common export duties for oil and cars by July 1.
Last week Putin said the premiers of the three former Soviet republics had failed to resolve disputes at a meeting in St. Petersburg. But on Friday Putin said that Russia and Kazakhstan will from July 1 introduce the Customs Code, which could be later joined by Belarus.
The Customs Union formally came into existence on January 1, but is unable to function until the Customs Code is approved.
Putin said Wednesday the negotiation process would be continued by experts over the next two weeks.
The main areas of contention are the import of foreign cars and aircraft into the Union's customs territory and export duties on Russian oil and petroleum products to Belarus.
Belarus refuses to pay the Russian gas price, set at $169 per 1,000 cubic meters in the first quarter of the year and $185 in the second quarter, and has been paying $150 since January 1 instead. A Russian official said it had "plucked this price out of thin air."
The country already owes Russian state-run gas monopoly Gazprom $192 million for gas supplies this year and this figure could reach $500-600 million by the end of the year if the situation is not resolved.
Moscow and Minsk faced off at the start of the year over tariffs on imports of Russian oil, which Belarus said should be completely duty-free in the Customs Union.
ST. PETERSBURG, May 28 (RIA Novosti)