BISHKEK -- A Kyrgyz politician says the country's World Trade Organization (WTO) membership would not hinder Kyrgyzstan from joining the Russian- Kazakh-Belarusian customs union, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.
Esengul Omuraliev, a former deputy prime minister, told RFE/RL on July 6 that membership in the WTO and the newly established customs union of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus are mutually complementary processes.
Omuraliev was a minister under first Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev and was in charge of Kyrgyzstan's negotiations to join the WTO, which it did in 1998.
Omuraliev said that given the fact that some 70 percent of Kyrgyzstan's trade turnover is with Kazakhstan and Russia, the country's entry into the new customs union those countries have formed is "absolutely necessary."
He added that Kyrgyzstan's potential membership in the Russian-Kazakh-Belarusian customs union -- which was formed on July 5 -- would not hinder the country's access to low-cost Chinese goods.
Omuraliev said that according to the country's standing commitments to the WTO, the average tariff on imports should be 9.1 percent, but in Kyrgyzstan's case it is 5.7 percent and in the recently formed customs union the rate averages 10.4 percent.