Russia will seek to access the World Trade Organisation as a customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan only once the bloc is in place from 2011, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Friday.
"Russia will join as part of a customs union. All the procedures for the customs union will be completed by the middle of 2011," Kudrin said on the sidelines of a meeting of G8 finance ministers in Lecce in southern Italy.
Kudrin said he could not foresee how long negotiations with the WTO would take but added that "90 percent" of agreements already in place as part of Russia's bid since 1993 to join the global trade body would remain.
He added that he had informed US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner about Russia's new policy during bilateral talks between the two in Lecce.
WTO chief Pascal Lamy has expressed "perplexity" after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin earlier this week announced that Moscow would seek membership as a single customs bloc together with its two ex-Soviet neighbours.
Russia is the biggest world economy still outside the WTO. Initial talks on its accession began 1993 but have dragged on amid a variety of disputes, and in recent months Russian officials have expressed frustration with the process.