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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Import Of Law for Importers

Once again, the Russian government has succeeded in adopting a good law the wrong way.

There can be little argument of the need for a comprehensive and enforced standards law for imported goods. Too many of Russia's kiosks are full of shoddy Western and Asian products that manufacturers would not and could not sell at home.

These goods serve to undermine the trust Russians have in foreign products. Ultimately, everyone from the consumer to the producers of safe and reliable goods will benefit if controls are imposed.

The standards regulation seems modeled on Western laws and even accepts testing at specific foreign laboratories. While the 60- to 90-day approval process seems lengthy, there are provisions in the legislation for a quick consent.

But the law does not take into account the particular way that many foreign stores sell goods in Russia. For Western businessmen, the country is still very much a frontier and, in the absence of more normal channels, many hard-currency stores that lack importers must bring their goods in themselves.

Requiring these retailers to handle the standards certification process is unrealistic, especially when a single retail outlet can have 5, 000 different products. The law needs to take this problem into account and find a way to allow storeowners to operate within its confines.

The authorities also need to enforce the new standards that Russian goods have been required to meet since May 1. Without such action, the new imports law would take on an uncomfortably protectionist coloring.

And then there is the way the law was enacted. President Boris Yeltsin signed the legislation last week and it is set to take effect July 1.

Some American storeowners were forewarned by the U. S. Embassy, but many other foreign nationals were unaware of it. The law has been in the making since last summer, so that even the storeowners who knew of it had no reason to believe enactment would occur so suddenly.

Ill-considered haste in legal changes affecting foreign business is a familiar problem here. The government has acted similarly with taxes and other import and export regulations. It may say that it welcomes foreign investment, but its unaccommodating method of regulating foreigners and their businesses belies its words.

The issue of standards for imported goods is an urgent one, but more important is its enforcement. Passing a law that businesses cannot follow undermines the law itself and ultimately does more harm than good.