Russia Protects Its Agriculture - 7 February, 2003 - News

Russia does the same that WTO member countries do themselves
The reaction of the WTO to the information about soonest introduction of quotas on agricultural import in Russia was rather nervous at first. This especially concerns European countries that are known not only for their high level agriculture, but also for the intention to feed the whole of the world with their oil, meat and vegetables. However, a workgroup for Russia’s incorporation into the WTO unexpectedly managed to intercept the initiative. After that, Europeans had to admit that Russia had a right to introduce such quotas.

Taking into consideration the fact that Russia has been the largest importer of different foodstuffs for a long period already, only the scandal connected with US-exported chicken meat made us understand that denial or considerable reduction of import can be a very effective instrument. The Russian side indulged in long sorting out of relationship with other WTO members and complained about double standards and hypocrisy of European partners. But only when several strict measures were taken to protect the domestic markets, WTO officials became more understanding and declared their readiness to make concessions. Head of the Russian delegation at the negotiations on incorporation into the WTO, Deputy Minister for Economic Development and Trade Maksim Medvedkov informed about it at yesterday’s press-conference in Moscow. In his words, during consultations in Geneva, the Russian delegation and the European partners agreed that with a view to protect the domestic agricultural market “Russia is doing the same that WTO members are doing themselves.” It is clear that it took the Russian delegation much effort to get this declaration from the WTO. Members of the international organization were obviously displeased to admit that Russia’s protection measures perfectly agreed with the Russian legislation and with the legal norms of the Organization itself.

As members of the Russian delegation at the negotiations on incorporation into the WTO say, some WTO members allowed “emotional statements” concerning Russia’s intention to introduce import duties on agricultural products. But Russia cannot give up the import duties at all. And head of the Russian delegation Maksim Medvedkov says it is Russia’s last word.

Chairman of the Russian Duma Profile Committee, Ivan Starikov also took part in the press-conference. In his words, the share of agricultural sector in Russia’s import made up over 7 billion dollars in 2002. Consequently, he says, interests of the Russian agricultural sector must be obligatorily taken into consideration at the discussion of the customs tariffs rate, the obligations on access to the Russian market of goods and services, technical barriers in trade, application of sanitary and veterinary norms.

What is more, different kinds of state protectionism measures meant for the entry of the domestic agricultural producers into the world markets are being seriously considered in Russia. Yesterday the Russian Ministry for Economic Development and Trade and the Agriculture Ministry have already started development of their concepts. As Maksim Medvedkov says, analysts of both ministries admit that Russia is beginning to acquire the status of an agricultural exporter on the world market.

At that, it is stressed that while development of important concepts and during consultations on Russia’s incorporation into the WTO, the Russian side takes account of both points of view on further agricultural development that are currently formed in the Organization: protectionism and liberalism.

The USA and the European Union support protectionism, they insist that governmental support to the agricultural sector must be strong enough. On the other hand, representatives of a so-called Cairns Group (Australia, New Zealand and others) stand up for liberalization of the agricultural sector and of trade in agricultural products. As the head of the Russian delegation says, agriculture-related problems are currently actively discussed in the network of another round of multilateral negotiations on the WTO. But as Russia is not yet a member of the Organization, Maksim Medvedkov supposes that “rules of the game can be determined without Russia.” In this connection, Russia must have an absolutely precise notion concerning its chances on the world agricultural market.

Ahtyam Ahtyrov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Maria Gousseva

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