MAGNITOGORSK, Russia, July 16 (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin urged Russia's steel industry to be more competitive and called on exporters to make use of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to break down trade barriers.
Russia's lawmakers ratified entry to the WTO last week after nearly two decades of negotiations and Putin hopes the organisation will help the country's steel industry to contend with weak global steel markets.
Speaking after he opened the second stage of MMK's $1.4 billion steel facility at Magnitogorsk on Monday, Putin said: "Global competition is rather tight, but the majority of you are global players and you should accept the rules of the game."
Putin pointed out that import barriers cost Russian exporters between $1.5 billion and $2 billion a year, adding: "To change this situation you should more actively make use of the WTO, of which Russia will become a fully-fledged member soon."
The WTO settles disputes between member states over whether importers provide equal conditions for domestic and foreign goods. Putin said that trade barriers were currently enforced against Russian exporters in more than 20 countries, including the United States, China and members of the European Union.
The Mill-2000 steel facility at Magnitogorsk will create about 1,400 jobs and produce up to 2 million tonnes of cold-rolled steel for Russia's car industry, home appliance manufacturers and construction companies.
The group's shares closed up 1.96 percent, outpacing the broader Moscow stock market, which closed flat.
Editing by Douglas Busvine and David Goodman