21 May 2004 -- Russian and European Union officials have signed a protocol confirming EU backing for Russia to join the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The deal removes a major obstacle to Russia's bid to join the body that sets rules for international trade. Russia and the EU have negotiated for six years on the terms of the agreement which was signed at a Russia-EU summit in Moscow today.
Russia has yet to conclude similar deals with a number of WTO's 147 members, including the United States but the EU is Russia's biggest trading partner.
The EU and Russia had been divided over the EU's requirement that Russia bring its energy prices to world levels, ending what amounted to a subsidy for Russian industry. Russia had balked also at opening its financial sector to foreign competition.