Obama says Russia moving closer to joining WTO

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Russia has taken “significant steps” toward joining the World Trade Organization, U.S. President Barack Obama told his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in a telephone call on Friday, the White House said.

During their meeting in Washington on June 24, the two presidents set September 30 as a just-passed deadline for Russian and U.S. negotiators to resolve outstanding bilateral issues that would ease Russia’s entry into the WTO.

“The Russian government has taken and continues to take significant steps to meet bilateral commitments and to accelerating multilateral negotiations on Russia’s WTO accession,” the White House said in a statement.

The White House cited the passage of legislation, including changes to laws governing intellectual property rights, as helping Russia’s case.

“President Obama pledged to support Russia’s efforts to complete remaining steps in multilateral negotiations so that Russia could join the WTO as soon as possible,” the statement said.

The leaders also discussed their interest in getting legislative approval in both of their countries of the new START treaty before the end of the year and “their continued concern for Iran’s defiance of its international obligations.”

Also discussed was the upcoming referendum in Sudan on the independence of its oil-producing south.

Reporting by Ross Colvin and Caren Bohan, editing by Vicki Allen