Russia could join OECD in two years if politics do not get in way, official says

Russia could complete negotiations to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in two years if this issue is not politicized, Vladimir Tkachenko, Russia's representative in talks to join the organization, said in an interview with Interfax.

"If we're talking about a timeframe, then technically all work could in principle be finished within two years. But there are underwater rocks on our part as well, which I've mentioned - a number of legislative initiatives. There are risks - and we see them - of being pulled toward politicization or resolving issues that are beyond the OECD. For example, market access, the resolution of bilateral trade problems," Tkachenko, who is the director of cooperation with international organizations at the Economic Development Ministry, said.

The "political factor plays a very big role in such issues," he said.

"If you take dialog in committees, then on our part the work is quite active. In most committees the reaction of our partners is quite adequate, in some committees we feel our partners are not always prepared to shift gears as quickly and move to the next level of discussion. One of the reasons, we believe, is the political factor," Tkachenko said.

He said all work has been completed in five of the 22 committees in which negotiations are being held: healthcare, labor relations, taxes, fishing and shipbuilding. "The consultations showed that Russian legislation and law enforcement in these areas meet OECD requirements," Tkachenko said.

There are also a number of other issues on which considerable progress has been made, he said. "For example, the committee on competition, the committee for protection of consumer rights and a number of others," Tkachenko said.

"But there are a number of issues on which we still have to agree with our partners. They can be grouped in eight blocks. These are fighting corruption; the environment; turnover of chemical substances, including recognition of data from nonclinical trials according to the principles of proper laboratory practice; corporate governance; government administration; policy in regard for foreign investment and services; the pension system; and trade policy," Tkachenko said.

He said "our country has made it halfway in the negotiation process, so with most committees we have either completed the process or are nearing completion."

He said political issues are raised primarily in the committee on government administration. "The committee on government administration is the committee that is most subject to political risks. And we see this," Tkachenko said.

One of the issues raised at the last meeting of this committee was the "law on foreign nongovernmental organizations, that they have to register as 'foreign agents' and report on their activities," he said.

"But this is a law that is similar to laws in other countries, including the equivalent U.S. act of 1938," Tkachenko said.

"Our position is such: we are willing to discuss any issue, but the main criterion in the OECD should after all be compliance with the requirements of this organization, which follow directly from OECD regulations. When everything is expanded and goes into the area of politics, such a dialog can stop any process, including the process of joining the OECD. There are such risks," Tkachenko said.

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