Russian Beer Rocks!

Belarus restricted the import of the Russian beer. Russian beer-makers are indignant about it

While politicians and officials spend their time, thinking over budget problems and other virtual details of the Unified State of Russia and Belarus, Russian producers think, what is the best thing to do with the abundance of cheap Belarussian goods on the Russian market.

It is well known that almost the whole Belarussian economy works for the sake of Russia’s needs. A lot of Belarussian enterprises would be closed forever, if Russia stopped importing its production. Indeed, the Belarussian cheap and good quality products have their fine demand in Russia. This does not allow Russian producers to raise prices on their own production, which is very good for Russian customers. On the other hand, the Belarussian import is an obstacle on the way of Russian producers’ development, as they say so themselves. Yet, it is obvious that they are not willing to develop by means of increasing their labor productivity or by means of improving the technical equipment of their production. They want to grow on the ground of Russian customers’ no-go.

Russian businessmen liked the German idea to set up various guilds and unions. We have the Russian Transport Union, the Fuel Union, even the Book Union. However, this is good both for the government and for the business. All lobbyist needs are focused in an adequate union, which allows its leadership to lobby the interests of an industrial branch in the government, parliament and local authorities. One of those unions – the Union of Russian Brewers  - wrote a letter to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. Brewers suggested the government should restrict the import of all Belarussian goods to Russia. Russian beer-makers believe that limiting the import of the Belarussian beer only was far from being enough. They think that the Belarussian import poses a threat to Russia’s economic security.

This address of the Russian brewers to the government of the country is not the first one. In December of 2002 beer lobbyists asked Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin to institute tough restrictions for the import of the Belarussian beer to Russia. The Belarussian government single-handedly took serious restrictive measures against the import of the Russian beer. This was a violation of several international agreements, taking into consideration the fact that the action was authorized by the council of ministers of the country. The basic obstacle on the way the Russian beer import to Belarus is the fact that it became 30% as expensive in connection with extra customs and tariff measures taken. Those measures included the approval of import quotas, institution of special import licences. Furthermore, the government of Belarus considers an opportunity of marking the imported beer with fiscal control marks. In addition to that, there are even more restrictions to ban retail beer sales by private businessmen. All of that made Russian brewers feel a strong loss of their profits. Moreover, their own government decided to raise beer excises despite beer-makers’ lobby pressure.

However, it was the first reaction, a rather emotional one. Russian beer-makers thought a bit later that the Belarussian beer comprises a meager part of the Belarussian goods that are imported to Russia. The letter to Prime Minister Kasyanov runs: “The losses of the Russian producers and of the budget can not be compensated by means of restricting beer deliveries from the republic of Belarus due to their insignificant volume. Only considerable protective measures will allow to remove discriminating actions on the part of the republic of Belarus that were taken against the import of the Russian beer.”

The Russian Union of Brewers informed the head of the Russian government that up to 60% of the beer import to Belarus was of the Russian origin, until the Belarussian government instituted its restrictions. The Russian import of beer considerably dropped, which caused damage to the Russian economy and even imperiled its economic security. For some reason, the government does not pay any attention to this relevant issue. It has not restricted any import of the Belarussian production yet.

Kira Poznakhirko

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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Author`s name Olga Savka