Sakhalin Deputies Petition For Removal of Car Duties

Deputies in the Sakhalin Duma are appealing to President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to rescind a tariff on foreign-made automobiles that went into effect Jan. 12.

The Duma deputies have issued a petition in support of a similar one made by deputies in the Primorye region, where the import tariffs continue to incite demonstrations.

The Sakhalin Duma "supports [the Primorye region's] appeal to rescind the tariff on used cars," the Duma's spokesman said, Interfax reported Tuesday.

The deputies also called on the State Duma to reject a bill that would prohibit imports of cars in which the driver's seat is on the right-hand side, including most automobiles imported from Japan.

About 84 percent of cars in the Far East have the steering wheel on the right-hand side, according to Avtostat analytical agency's November data.

The levying of the tariffs, some of which were hiked as high as 80 percent, has sparked widespread protests, especially in the Far East, where car imports are a large part of the local economy.

Leonid, a car importer and distributor based in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk who did not give his last name for fear of reprisal, had to close his business at the end of December.

Although he received up to 100 orders a month in 2008, Leonid said by telephone, "We didn't receive a single order for a January delivery."

Though the tariffs are the biggest cause of the fall in imports, prices on foreign-made cars have also increased because of the plummeting ruble, which has lost 30 percent of its value against the yen since Dec. 1.

"I was planning to switch to auto-part imports, but with the exchange rate the only thing left to do is to wait for it to stabilize," Leonid said.