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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Kazakhstan may join the World Trade Organisation this year, WTO director general Pascal Lamy said on Thursday.
"Kazakhstan is at an advanced stage of its accession negotiation. My guess is that this could be doable this year," he told reporters on the sidelines of the Gaidar Forum, an economic conference in Moscow.
Kazakhstan applied to join the WTO in 1996. The oil-rich Central Asian state is one of the few countries in the world that remains outside the international trading club. Membership is expected to boost the Kazakh economy by opening it to foreign investors.
Kazakhstan's neighbor Russia was admitted to the WTO last August after 18 years of negotiations.
Lamy played down suggestions that Russia's WTO membership was not proceeding smoothly, following signs over recent months of possible trade disputes with the European Union, Russia's major trading partner.
"We don't judge results of a WTO accession that lasted 18 years in six months. Time will say whether or not it worked," he said.
Reporting by Maya Dyakina; Writing by Jason Bush; Editing by Robin Pomeroy