Putin: Russia, Kazakhstan to launch customs union without Belarus

ST. PETERSBURG, May 31 (PRIME-TASS) -- Russia and Kazakhstan have agreed to launch the Customs Union without Belarus on July 1, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said late on May 28 following talks with Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov.

"We have agreed to launch the Customs Code of the Customs Union on a bilateral basis starting July 1," Putin said.

Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky didn't attend the meeting. Putin said earlier that export duties on oil and oil products remained the only disagreement in negotiations between Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus on their customs union. Belarus has argued that Russian-Belarusian free trade treaties stipulated duty-free trade between the countries.

Russia and Kazakhstan have also agreed to keep the current auto import duties after July 1 until an agreement on creating a single economic space is signed, Masimov told reporters. The sides have also agreed to try and quickly resolve differences in their positions over creating a single economic space, he also said.

Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov didn't rule out that import duties on passenger cars would be reduced to 25% from 30% currently after the creation of a single economic space.

In addition, Russia and Kazakhstan also agreed on the distribution of import duties within the customs union if Belarus fails to join the union from July 1, Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister Kumirzak Shukiyev said. Russia is to receive 92.31% of customs duties levied by the Customs Union, while Kazakhstan will receive 7.69%, he said. Under previous agreements, Belarus was to receive 4.7% of customs duties levied by the Customs Union, while Russia and Kazakhstan were to receive 87.97% and 7.33% of the duties, respectively.

Putin also said that Russia and Kazakhstan would jointly enter the World Trade Organization (WTO) if Belarus fails to approve agreements on the Customs Union. "As soon as Belarus agrees on its domestic positions, we will strive to join the WTO in a trilateral format," he also said.


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