U.S. Poultry Importers Face Review in October

VedomostiMedvedkov
Russia will review trade agreements with up to five countries, including the United States, as soon as October, chief foreign trade negotiator Maxim Medvedkov said.

Russia is contemplating a response to calls from some Western politicians to block its 15-year-old bid to join the World Trade Organization as punishment for sending tanks into Georgia to repel an attack on a breakaway province.

"There will be a handful of countries [with which trade deals are reviewed], no more than five. Mostly it will concern import duties," Medvedkov said Monday, adding that the agreements in question were not part of Russia's WTO entry obligations.

"These agreements ... were concluded separately, although they are ideologically related to the WTO. They define the trade regime prior to our WTO accession," Medvedkov said.

Medvedkov said some countries had already received the Russian proposals and he expected to wrap up the review within one or two months. He confirmed that one of the accords to be reviewed is the 2005 U.S.-Russia bilateral meat agreement, even though it was originally set to run for five years.

Russia, the biggest market for U.S. poultry exporters, banned imports from 19 producers in the United States last month on health and safety grounds.

Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev said last week that Russia may cut poultry import quotas by up to 300,000 tons, or one-quarter of total imports, next year.

Medvedkov said negotiators had hoped that a 30 percent drop in U.S. poultry exports to Russia after the meat agreement went into force in 2005 would have persuaded the U.S. Congress to lift a Cold War-era restriction on trade with Russia.

The Jackson-Vanik amendment, approved in 1974, tied normal trade relations with the Soviet Union to the rights of Jews and other religious minorities to emigrate freely.

The move to lift it had always faced opposition in the U.S. Congress, which is unlikely to soften its stance in the aftermath of the war in Georgia.

Medvedkov said Russian poultry producers had enjoyed 15 percent growth rates since the agreement went into force, but this year they had difficulty coping with rising feed costs. "This [lifting of Jackson-Vanik] did not happen, our poultry producers are having problems and, therefore, we want to negotiate with our U.S. partners a more predictable environment for this important industry," Medvedkov said.

U.S. exports of poultry and other meat products to Russia totaled nearly $1 billion in 2007, leading all other categories.