June 24, 2010 / 9:00 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 3-Obama, Medvedev reach deal on US poultry exports

* U.S. pledges support for Russia’s WTO entry

* Two countries eager to bolster trade

* Medvedev: no plans to send peacekeepers to Kyrgyzstan (Adds leaders’ quotes, background)

By Jeff Mason and Guy Faulconbridge

WASHINGTON, June 24 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed on Thursday to allow U.S. companies to restart exports of poultry to Russia as the two leaders found common ground on trade and investment.

Speaking to reporters after talks with his Russian counterpart, Obama said the United States supported Moscow’s bid to join the World Trade Organization and both leaders said they hoped to have technical issues that have stymied that effort resolved by the fall.

“To deepen Russia’s integration into the global economy, I reaffirmed our strong commitment to Russia’s ascension to the World Trade Organization,” Obama said. “Today, we’ve reached an agreement that will allow the United States to begin exporting our poultry products to Russia once again.”

Obama is keen to bolster meager trade and investment with Russia as a way to take its relationship with Moscow to a new level after gaining Kremlin support over Afghanistan, Iran sanctions and a landmark nuclear arms reduction treaty.

Chicken became the two leaders’ latest area of agreement.

Russia had been the largest overseas buyer of U.S. chicken, but banned the meat earlier this year, claiming a chlorine rinse used here violated its food safety rules.

Shares of top U.S. chicken producers Tyson Foods Inc (TSN.N), Pilgrim’s Pride Corp PPC.N and Sanderson Farms Inc (SAFM.O) turned higher after the announcement.

The Obama administration has tried to engage the Kremlin in warmer relations since taking office 18 months ago, after relations between Washington and Moscow had deteriorated, especially after Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia.

The two leaders acknowledged continued differences on the Georgia issue but found some common ground over the need to quell violence in Kyrgyzstan. Medvedev said Russia had no plans to send peace-keeping troops to the Central Asian country.

Washington and Moscow also have differences over the U.S. Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan used for movement of U.S. troops and supplies bound for the war in Afghanistan.

FRIES, TWITTER AND TRADE

Thursday’s meeting was the seventh between Obama and Medvedev and officials on both sides are eager to underscore their close personal ties.

Obama treated Medvedev to a cheeseburger lunch at Ray’s Hell Burger outside of Washington. The two leaders shared fries. “Probably it’s not quite healthy, but it’s very tasty, and you feel — you can feel the spirit of America,” Medvedev said of the meal.

That atmosphere, officials say, contrasted with the disputes of the Bush years, when relations sank to a post-Soviet low during the war between Russia and U.S. ally Georgia.

Medvedev, who started his U.S. visit with a tour of California’s Silicon Valley high-technology companies, also met U.S. business leaders to pitch Russia as a swiftly expanding economy where investors are welcome.

Obama noted that Medvedev had opened a Twitter account while visiting the company’s headquarters in California.

“I have one, as well, so we may be able to finally throw away those red phones that have been sitting around for so long,” he said to laughter, referring to the Cold War-era direct hotline between U.S. and Kremlin leaders.

Both leaders, keen to increase trade, emphasized a quick timeline for Russia’s bid to join the WTO. Obama said about 90-95 percent of the outstanding issues had been resolved.

“A lot of the technical issues, the resolution of those technical issues, though, may be in the hands of the Russian government,” he said, adding negotiators would act with urgency to address them.

Medvedev said the time frame was meant to keep up momentum for Russia’s bid. “There are some remaining technical, minor problems, and our teams have been instructed to work as fast as possible, and we hope ... that the work will be finalized by the end of September this year,” he said.

Medvedev is eager to attract U.S. investment after the global economic crisis hammered Russia’s economy, revealing — according to Medvedev — the weakness of an economic model dependent on the sale of oil, gas and metals.

Russia has attracted $265.8 billion in foreign investment since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, though the United States accounted for just 3 percent of that. U.S. bilateral trade with Russia was just $18.4 billion last year. (Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle, David Alexander, Matt Spetalnick, Alister Bull, and Bob Burgdorfer; editing by Patricia Wilson and Anthony Boadle)

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