DEAUVILLE, France (Reuters) - President Barack Obama told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday he was confident Russia’s 17-year attempt to join the World Trade Organization would reach a successful conclusion.
Obama and Medvedev, meeting on the sidelines of a Group of Eight summit on the windswept Normandy coast, said they were committed to an agreement on missile defense.
One issue that has bedevilled U.S.-Russian relations is Russia’s drive to enter the World Trade Organization, which would lead to an increase in trade for both countries.
“We are confident that we can get this done,” Obama said. “And it will be a key building block in expanding trade and commerce that create jobs and benefit both countries.”
Medvedev sounded less sure. He said the process needed a new impetus and called for negotiations to be stepped up.
“I hope we’ll be able to conclude this process finally. But we need motivation and impetus for that,” Medvedev said.
Georgia is a stumbling block. While the United States and the European Union have backed Russia’s WTO accession, Russia’s neighbor Georgia has opposed it in the aftermath of a brief war they fought in 2008.
A senior Obama administration official said the United States had helped set up a mediation group to look into Georgia’s concerns.
The White House said it was possible the outstanding issues could be resolved by the end of this year.
The two leaders declared they had successfully reset U.S.-Russian relations in the past two years.
Such congratulatory comments could serve each political leader well next year.
Obama is seeking re-election in 2012, while Medvedev is keeping Russians guessing over whether he or Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will seek the presidency again.
“Over the last several years, we have done a lot to make our relations different from what they used to be, and we stand high chances to continue this positive trend and develop it further,” Medvedev said.
Obama declared: “We’ve been able to reset relations between the United States and Russia in a way that is good for the security and the prosperity of both of our countries.”
Missile defense remains an irritant. Medvedev has been critical of U.S. plans for a missile defense system in Central and Eastern Europe. Washington says it needs such a system to guard against potential attacks from Iran and North Korea.
Medvedev said he believed the issue would eventually be resolved -- “like for example in the year 2020” -- but now it was possible to lay the foundation for such a deal.
Writing by Jeff Mason and Steve Holland; editing by Andrew Dobbie