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August 23, 2017

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Imports worry some Russian producers as WTO entry looms

MOSCOW -- Russia's upcoming entry into the WTO is hailed by its leadership and global trade chiefs as a long overdue integration into the world economy over 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But Oleg Podoyma, head of a poultry firm in the main Siberian city of Novossibirsk, is not so sure.

"We are not expecting a bright future," he sighed. With customs duties set to be slashed on imported goods after membership "there will be competition not just with national producers but with the importers."

"For the moment 90 percent of the poultry consumed in Russia is produced in Russia and just 10 percent imported," he said. But Podoyma fears that after WTO membership the market will be flooded by U.S., Brazilian and European produce.

Russia is due to finally join the WTO later this summer, ending a sometimes torturous saga that required 18 years of negotiations and was marked by frequent snags and mutual recriminations.

After the World Trade Organization's (WTO) 153 members gave their final approval to Russian membership in December, the Russian parliament now just needs to ratify the accession documents, a move expected in late July.

Even with the process apparently over, WTO membership is controversial in Russia with some companies fearing they risk being destroyed by sudden exposure to foreign competition and others seeing it as a crucial step in modernization.

Podoyma has invested large sums in modernizing his firm's machinery over the last years and fears he will not be able to repay loans if his market share drops after WTO membership.

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