By Laurence Norman
BRUSSELS--Russia could face its first World Trade Organization complaint by July 1 unless it changes a law which imposes a fee on foreign auto manufacturers before then, European Union officials said Friday.
Around the time Russia joined the World Trade Organization, the country implemented a recycling duty for the next five years that hit foreign auto manufacturers with a fee that was similar to the reduction seen in import tariffs. Domestic manufacturers were, however, exempt.
The EU has repeatedly raised the issue with Russia and Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht had said publicly the EU was considering WTO action.
However, EU officials said Friday that the European Commission told Russian authorities during a meeting in March that it would start proceedings at the WTO July 1 if Russia did not change the law to stop discriminating against foreign companies.
The officials, who asked to remain anonymous, said the EU will raise the issue at next week's EU-Russia summit in Yekaterinburg. Mr. de Gucht is not attending the summit.
Russia's government submitted a bill to parliament Friday that would apply the recycling fee universally to domestic and foreign manufactures alike starting July 1. The bill would need to pass through three readings in Russia's lower house and then the Federation Council before it could be signed into law by President Valdimir Putin.
One of the EU officials warned that process could take "months.".
Asked if they would waive the July 1 deadline if there is progress in approving the change, the official said "the deadline is pretty hard."
"Progress is not what we need. We need results," the person added.
A second official said that if Russia is in the process of approving the law change but it's not done yet by July 1, the EU could go ahead with the formal request for negotiations at the WTO July 1--the first stage of a complaint--and then step back if then Moscow completes changing the law.
Earlier this week, Russian Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov said he did not expect the recycling fee issue to come up at the summit because of Russia's pledge to deal with it. He said it's a "non-issue."
It "will certainly be finally settled in a matter I hope of weeks rather than months," he told reporters on Tuesday.
Russia joined the WTO last August after 18 years of negotiations.
The vehicle fee issue is one of several irritants next week's summit will have to address. The officials said the EU will reiterate their call for a moratorium on Russia's demand for passenger data on people flying over Russia.
The EU will also press its concerns over a tightening of Russian laws against non-government organizations and other sother human rights concerns.
Meanwhile, Russia has attacked the EU this week over its decision not to renew an arms embargo on Syria. Russia says the EU's move will discourage the Syrian opposition from engaging seriously in upcoming peace negotiations.
The EU officials said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy will reiterate to Russian President Vladimir Putin the EU's full support to the Geneva II peace talks.
A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Friday it expects the Syrian opposition to attend the Geneva talks.
(Lukas Alpert in Moscow contributed to this article)
Write to Laurence Norman at Laurence.Norman@dowjones.com