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EU-Russia: WTO Friends or Foes?
March 30, 2013 22:22

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In March, the European Commission has been proud to announce a third edition of its ‘Trade and investment barriers’ report.

The documents details success and failure in fighting protectionist policies of the EU’s major partners like Russia, China, Brazil, India, etc.

The EU officials have concluded that there are still a host of issues between Russia and the EU that make it too difficult for European manufacturers and exporters to place their products on the Russian market.

The report acknowledged that Russia's WTO accession on 22 August 2012 has ‘triggered a potential for solving many long-standing market access issues’.

But according to the findings, the process has been impeded through old and new barriers put in place along the way.

In fact, the report says that in the run-up of its accession ‘Russia maintained or adopted a series of protectionist measures, the majority of which are not in compliance with Russia's WTO commitments’.

As from 1 September 2012, Russia introduced recycling fees for new vehicles to be put in circulation.

Domestic manufacturers just need to provide a guarantee concerning the recycling of their vehicles instead of paying the fee, ‘while foreign suppliers must pay the fee as a condition for the registration of the imported car’. The EU sees this one as ‘a clearly discriminatory measure’.

The EU says it is still conducting negotiations to find a solution on this issue but ‘if no results can be achieved, the EU will consider launching a WTO dispute settlement proceeding’.

The EU has also complained that Russia is still applying ‘higher import tariffs than the committed (so-called bound) levels for a wide range of products including used vehicles, paper, car bodies and several others’.

Another thorny issue is Russia’s obsession with the tripartite Customs Union it has forged with Kazakhstan and Belarus.

‘A number of technical regulations (e.g. alcoholic drinks, cars and textiles) have been

recently prepared’, and should they be approved in the current form they will make it more difficult for EU companies to place their products on the Russian market.

The EU has criticized Russia for what it sees as disproportionate actions in relation to meat quality issues. Since 20 March 2012, Russia has banned the import of live animals from the EU over irregularities found in the health certificates of certain shipments from the EU.  

There’s been some progress, too. In particular, European companies can now import spruce and pine at significantly reduced export duty rates as of September 2012. 

Here's the video of a rountable on Russia's progress as a WTO member and its links with the EU.

You can also hear what the Russian side has to say on the issue.

Author: Mikhail Vesely

Tags: Russia-EU relations visa free travel    

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