* Aim would be to first strike investment deal
* Russia sees up to five separate accords
* U.S. says will keep talking on investment
(Updates with U.S. comment, additional comment from Russian
By Timothy Ahmann
WASHINGTON, Dec 11 Russia on Wednesday proposed
a series of bilateral trade negotiations with the United States
under the umbrella of a hoped-for new trade agenda between the
two countries, a senior Russian official said.
He said Russia, in a meeting with top U.S. trade officials
on Wednesday, had floated the idea of establishing a framework
for talks that could lead to up to five separate deals,
beginning with a pact on investment.
"Maybe we won't call it free trade agreement negotiations,
but maybe comprehensive approach and comprehensive trade agenda,
which would mean that we could divide the whole agenda into
different agreements," the official told a group of reporters.
The proposal was made in a meeting between Russian First
Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and U.S. Trade
Representative Michael Froman, according to the official.
A spokeswoman for Froman said the United States looked
forward to working with Russia to address outstanding issues,
including those related to Russia's implementation of its World
Trade Organization commitments, and "to further realize the
significant potential of the U.S.-Russia economic relationship."
"Both sides agreed to work together to address barriers to
trade and investment and continue discussions on the possibility
of a Bilateral Investment Treaty," the spokeswoman said.
The Russian official said it could take up to 15 years if
the two nations wanted to secure a free-trade deal, although
that would be the eventual aim under the proposal.
"Ultimately it would mean a comprehensive free-trade zone
agreement, but to negotiate that between America and Russia, it
would take 10 or 15 years," he said. "We need something which is
In addition to an agreement on investment, the official said
pacts on regulations and standards could be completed within
five years. The comprehensive framework Russia proposed would
also seek to cover trade and tariffs, and perhaps an agreement
that provides benefits for certain regions, he said.
He said Russia did not have trouble attracting investment
from big U.S. firms, but wanted to see more investment from
smaller companies. "Medium-sized companies don't come over and
investment, but that's more important than giants," he said.
The official said the Obama administration was not expecting
the proposal, but agreed to further discussions in January aimed
at achieving a draft road map.
The United States is engaged in two sets of free-trade
talks: one with the European Union and another with 11 other
Pacific Rim nations. Russia is party to neither.
The official said Russia would proceed cautiously in
considering joining any Pacific Rim deal, partly because it has
been a member of the World Trade Organization for only a year.
(Reporting by Tim Ahmann; Editing by Vicki Allen and Philip