Putin Tacks Provison on G20 Pledge

RIA-NovostiPutin, center, chairing a meeting Monday of the Presidium, where he defended earlier decisions on trade barriers.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Monday that the country's commitment to help stem the effects of the global financial crisis shouldn't be met at the expense of its national interests.

Speaking two days after President Dmitry Medvedev joined the other leaders of the G20 nations in pledging not to introduce new trade barriers over the next 12 months, Putin said he expected Russia to be held only to the same standards as the other countries in the collective search for a solution to the global liquidity crunch.

"It's clear to everyone that this work will make sense only if it is on an equal basis and won't boil down to attempts to use our resources to solve the problems that have arisen that were not of our making," Putin told a regular meeting of the government.

Despite Russia's signing of the G20 declaration committing members to maintaining open economies, it will stick to earlier decisions involving the "protection of our national interests," Putin said, adding that the government was willing to compromise.

"We are ready to postpone some decisions," he said. "We don't want to create additional problems for anybody."

Ahead of the EU-Russia summit in Nice, France, last week, Putin said hikes to timber export tariffs likely to deal a blow to lumber and pulp and paper industries in Finland and Sweden would be put on hold for nine months to a year.

The government said earlier this month that it would raise duties on imported cars significantly. It has also said it will review trade agreements with countries like the United States.

At Monday's meeting, Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev said the government planned to cut 2009 import quotas on poultry by 300,000 tons and pork by 200,000 tons to help domestic producers, in a move expected to hurt U.S. producers.

A senior Russian official said on Monday that there was no contradiction between Russia's commitment to maintaining an open economy and its plans to review trade agreements.

Deputy Finance Minister Dmitry Pankin told reporters that the G20 communique opposed the introduction of new trade barriers not the scrapping of existing ones.

"The meaning of the G20 declaration is a long-term movement toward the rejection of protectionism," Pankin said, Interfax reported.

He added that there was no conflict with other member countries on monetary policy.

Pankin also said Russia might offer $1 billion in funding to the IMF, RIA-Novosti reported. The money would be in the form of a loan, which would earn interest and could be recalled if Moscow deemed it necessary, the news agency said.

Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told the government meeting that measures to implement the agreements reached at Saturday's summit meeting would be adopted by the end of March.

The agreements include Russian membership in the Financial Stability Forum, to give it a greater say in measures to help fight the global crisis.

Established in 1999, the forum comprises central banks and other national financial authorities from the G7 countries and Australia, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Singapore and Switzerland, as well as international financial and regulatory institutions.

"With this meeting, a new global financial architecture has begun to be formed," Kudrin said.