December 30, 2011
After the country's admission to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Russia's agricultural producers will enter new foreign markets, First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov said.
"In fact, we are entering world markets and can claim a broader use for our products within the WTO," he said. "We have already exported 17.5 million tonnes of grain this year and I think we can sell another 6-7 million by the end of the agricultural year on July 1, 2012. Apart from grain, we are beginning to export fowl, sunflower seed oil, sunflower seeds and sugar. We will export about 200,000 tonnes of sugar this year," Zubkov said.
President Dmitry Medvedev said earlier that Russian agriculture would become one of the leading sectors of the world economy in the years to come and "no WTO will stop that". "I have lately felt proud when flying over the country in a helicopter, certainly over agrarian regions in the European part [of Russia] - Belgorod, Voronezh, Kursk. Everything is green and even, new machinery working in the fields, people smiling in villages," Medvedev said.
He believes that "animal husbandry should be pulled up and then our agriculture will be among the leading sectors" and "no WTO will stop that- we have secured ourselves such terms for agriculture that will allow it to develop actively". In his opinion, the situation in the pig and poultry farming is already good, but there are problems in cattle farming. "This where we should concentrate our efforts," he added.
Medvedev is confident that Russia "can create such agrarian system that will feed not only itself but also a considerable part of the world", including China, "which will have food supply problems for a long time", India and other Asia-Pacific countries. Russia now had much stronger agricultural positions at the accession talks with the WTO than 5-7 years ago, Medvedev said.
He stressed that the achievements made up to date should not be lost after accession to the WTO. "We must keep everything, of course," Medvedev said.
"In our talks with the EU, the US and other countries we try to defend the positions of our agricultural producers as much as we can," the president said, adding that the Russian delegation has so far been succeeding in doing so.
"The overly stringent requirements put forth for us were rejected, but some countries, including our neighbours, gave up without fighting and they have a totally different situation now," Medvedev said. "We must preserve everything we have done and everything that cost us money, effort and hard work," he said.
Russia has made a qualitative leap in terms of agriculture over the last several years. "If were joining the WTO 5-7 years ago, I am sure it would have been more difficult for us to defend the interests of our agricultural producers," he said.
Medvedev pledged earlier that state support to agriculture would not decline after Russia's admission to the WTO. "There is no question of reducing state support to agricultural producers after accession to the WTO," he said.
"There is a fixed figure of US$9 billion [worth of state support] until 2012, which will gradually decrease by 2017. This level will be identical to the current one," the president said. "In other words, there will be no obstacles to the implementation of current and future programmes aimed at developing and upgrading agriculture in Russia," he said.
Medvedev said "the level of customs protection of key agricultural products will remain efficient, and for some of them Russia can even increase import duties". "The most pressing issues at the [WTO accession] talks were and remain meat protection levels and sanitary and phytosanitary control procedures," he said.
"We are defending our approaches, according to which investment projects in the Russian cattle-breeding sector are cost effective, and the rules of supervision should reliably protect consumers and be comfortable for trade," the president said.
"We should cover the remaining distance quickly, without creating big problems for communication with our leading partners in the EU. I hope that the government will find such compromise," Medvedev said. He also said Russia's accession to the WTO would not result in losses for domestic manufacturers.
"We have secured such conditions for ourselves that do not destroy any of our industries. And this is what matters most of all. Nothing should be lost when joining the WTO. We are absolutely confident of that," Medvedev said.
According to the president, the problem is not that large shipments of goods and products will enter Russia after accession to the WTO, but that these goods and products are brought in Russia now illicitly. "These goods are already in the market and they are destroying it, but they come here illegally. That is where the problem is," he said. He believes it would be wrong to fight cheap import as there should be fair competition. But law enforcement agencies should expose gray schemes used for smuggling counterfeit products and put a stop to such practices.