October 5, 2011


Russia resolves meat import issues to join WTO



Russia has arrived at a compromise on meat imports so as to join the World Trade Organisation, a deputy economy minister said Tuesday (Oct 4).


To encourage the country's own pork and poultry industry, Russia regulates meat imports with annual tariff quotas, under which certain volumes may be imported at a discount tariff, while volumes above the quotas may be imported at a high tariff.


Deputy Economy Minister Andrei Slepnyov said that on meat, all the main conditions with key players are agreed but on the whole there is an agreement that are quite comfortable for them, and on the whole suit the industry and their partners.


He added that the conditions do imply a certain decrease in quota deliveries compared to what they had before.


US Trade Representative Ron Kirk on Monday met with Russia's top negotiator at the talks, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov.


Kirk said he was confident that Russia would be able to resolve remaining issues in order to join the WTO this year.


Russia, a top consumer of US poultry meat, banned imports in March 2002 citing health concerns and lifted the ban a month later after intense US lobbying.


The dispute coincided with Russian anger at Washington's tariffs on steel imports, but neither side has publicly linked the two issues.


After intense negotiations, Moscow and Washington signed a four-year deal in 2005 under which the US was allowed to ship 811,900 tonnes of poultry meat to Russia in 2005, out of total quota of 1.09 million, at a discount tariff. This was set as one of the conditions for Russia to join the international trade club.


The US poultry imports were to rise to 931,500 tonnes in 2009 under the deal.


Since then, Russia has been gradually cutting poultry and pork import quotas, as its own production developed.


Quotas for fresh and refrigerated beef for 2012 have been set at 30,000 tonnes and for frozen beef at 530,000 tonnes, unchanged from 2011.


Quotas for pork have been cut by 30% to 350,000 tonnes and for poultry meat by 6% to 320,000 tonnes.


Also from 2012 Russia has cancelled separate country quotas.


Russian officials have complained that the WTO was imposing discriminative conditions for Moscow's accession, in particular, insisting that Russia applies quotas to only seven agricultural commodities, while the EU may apply quotas for as many as 86 commodities.