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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Bows To Pressure On Quotas

Russia has scrapped an import quota on strong alcoholic drinks and ethanol that had been due to take effect Jan.1, ordering instead that all imports be licensed, a State Customs Committee spokesman said Friday.

"The import quotas were scrapped by a government resolution Dec. 30," said spokesman Vladimir Yemelyanov.

"At the same time, the government ordered the Foreign Trade Ministry, the Economics Ministry and our committee to prepare to re-issue importers' licenses within a month. Meanwhile old licenses will be effective," he said.

It was unclear what effect the new licensing procedure would have on the level of alcohol imports. Foreign Economic Relations Minister Oleg Davydov said last month that even if the planned quota was dropped in favor of a new licensing system, "much less vodka and alcohol" would be imported in 1997.

An Agriculture Ministry official who declined to be identified said the quota plan was scrapped because of objections by the World Trade Organization, which Russia hopes to join this year.

Interfax quoted another official, Leonid Kholod of the Agriculture Ministry's economics department, as saying he believed that decision "was most likely adopted under pressure from the International Monetary Fund."

The IMF, which is closely monitoring Russia's compliance with terms of a $10 billion, three-year loan accord, insisted late last year that Russia drop plans for alcohol import quotas.

Kholod, who has been involved in talks on joining the World Trade Organization, reiterated the Russian contention that even under WTO rules a country has the right to curb imports "if they really threaten the country's national interests and domestic market."

He said the pressure from imported alcohol on the domestic market "has been enormous and has in many ways induced a slump in national alcohol production."

Experts have estimated average annual imports of vodka and ethanol at 1.27 billion liters. (Reuters, MT)