Ambassador Isi Siddiqui said this week that U.S. negotiations with Russia to have Russia join the World Trade Organization (WTO) are at a “very sensitive stage.” Siddiqui was speaking at a Senate Finance Committee hearing this week regarding his confirmation to continue serving as chief agriculture negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).

USTR officials returned to Geneva earlier this month to continue talks with Russia about Russia’s WTO accession. Both issues of market access and sanitary/phytosanitary provisions remain on the negotiating table, Siddiqui said, adding that Russia needs to also make a commitment to align its domestic agriculture support and subsidy programs with WTO rules.

Since March 2010, Siddiqui has served under a recess appointment, and in order to continue as the chief agriculture negotiator beyond the end of this congressional session, the Senate must confirm that his temporary appointment is to be permanent.  In March this year, 44 Republican Senators pledged to block all trade-related nominees until President Obama submits the three pending free trade agreements (Colombia, Panama, Korea) to Congress and commit to enact the necessary implementing legislation into law.

The National Chicken Council, the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council, and a number of other agricultural organizations have written the Senate Finance Committee in strong support of Dr. Siddiqui’s confirmation.