Not today, Vladimir! UK snubs Russia plea to start talks on bilateral trade deal

UAE: Liz Truss discusses post-Brexit trade deal

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed Russia was ready to begin “bilateral” talks on securing closer ties including on trade with the UK. Mr Lavrov, who was appointed Foreign Minister in February 2004 by President Vladimir Putin, claimed the UK would remain an important trading partner of Russia.


Relations between both sides have become strained in recent months with Russian ministers warning ties between London and Moscow were “close to frozen”.

The UK has also continued to maintain sanctions made by the EU encouraging Russia to cease actions threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty or independence of Ukraine.

The sanctions also place specific financial and trade restrictions on Moscow.

A report by the UK’s Intelligence and Security Committee in July also claimed that Mr Putin’s government has been engaged in “hostile foreign interference” against the UK and other powers.


But, Mr Lavrov said: “For our part, we are ready to resume the work of specialized bilateral mechanisms.”

The Russian minister also stressed they were “closely following” interaction between the UK and the EU.

He added Brexit was a “purely intra-British and intra-EU affair.”

Mr Lavrov said he could “argue with confidence” that Britain’s exit from the EU did not become a factor “prompting the British authorities to normalize interstate dialogue with Russia.”

He added: “Great Britain will retain its position as an important trading partner of Russia.”

However, he made clear to a Russian magazine: “Regardless of their membership in the EU, the British authorities consistently take absolutely unjustified attacks against us, using harsh anti-Russian rhetoric in the public space.

“As a result, bilateral interaction is largely terminated, trust is lost, and the degree of relations is at a freezing point.”

Mr Lavrov claimed that trade between the two nations in 2020 amounted to £19 billion, an increase of 53.6 percent compared to 2019.

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UK officials last night told that trade can contribute to mutual prosperity, but “cannot be the basis for normalising relations with Russia.”

The Department for International Trade said there were “no plans for a UK-Russia trade deal” stressing WTO rules would “continue to apply to our trade with Russia.”

But the Department said: “Trade and investment can be a lever for binding Russia to the rules-based international order, increasing prosperity and opportunities for UK businesses, and supporting people-people ties.”

A Whitehall source added: “Russia needs to change its tune with Britain and be compliant.”

Russia last week celebrated the “Centenary of the Russian-British trade relations” marking the hundredth anniversary of the first Soviet-British trade agreement.

Russian Ambassador to the UK, Andrei Kelin, said: “This example is particularly instructive now that, unfortunately, difficulties have risen again in the Russia-UK relations.” 

But he added: “Naturally, Russia will start rapprochement only on the basis of equality and mutual respect. We are ready to discuss with the UK any issues in an honest and open dialogue, both bilaterally and multilaterally, including the UN and the WTO. 

“No matter how our political dialogue develops, the expansion of mutually beneficial economic, cultural and humanitarian exchanges must continue.”


Liz Truss submits UK's application to join the CPTPP

The news comes as International Trade Secretary Liz Truss chairs a virtual meeting of the group’s trade ministers, together with new WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to discuss how the organisation can tackle unfair trading practices while addressing issues like climate change. 

Ms Truss said some WTO rules dated back more than a quarter of a century and were in urgent need of reform.

She said the UK wanted to see the development of a new set of principles governing digital trade, to ensure open digital markets and to prevent protectionism. 

Ahead of the talks, Ms Truss said: “People cannot believe in free trade if it is not fair. 

“Public trust has been corroded by pernicious practices, from the use of forced labour to environmental degradation and the stealing of intellectual property.”

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