ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) -- U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk on Friday indicated that negotiations to bring Russia into the World Trade Organization would get a boost from Moscow lifting its ban on U.S. pork imports.
Russia imposed the ban in late April in response to the swine flu outbreak.
Russia, the largest economy outside the WTO, has been negotiating to join the 153-member trade body for the past 16 years. Russian officials have been meeting separately with EU and U.S officials on the sidelines of an economic forum in St. Petersburg to discuss the WTO bid.
The EU and Russia agreed Thursday to complete talks on membership by the end of this year.
With Washington, "there is a willingness to try and finish the talks on the remaining issues before the Russia-US summit" in early July, Russia's chief WTO negotiator Maxim Medvedkov said, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.
Kirk said Russia lifting the ban "would be a wonderful manifestation of the progress" in the talks.
"We are firmly of the mind that ban is not consistent with international standards and has no scientific justification. We're hopeful -- particularly now with the statement as to the safety of the consumption of pork products by the WHO, WTO and others -- that Russia would revisit the issue and make the ban as short-lived as possible," he told reporters.
Kirk said the pork ban demonstrates that Russia needs to amend not only its laws in order to enter the WTO but its attitudes as well.
"We believe that just as important it is to implement the necessary changes in the law, it is equally important to have the behavioral changes to accompany that as well," he said. "The decision taken was one that we believe continues to evidence behavior that's taken not based on science or trading rules, but taken to protect the domestic industries."