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No OK from Customs Office04.08.2010 | 14:46
RF Chief Sanitary Doctor Gennady Onishenko calls for necessary measures to be adopted by the participants of the Customs Union - Kazakhstan and Belarus in order to prevent penetration of Moldavian and Georgian wine products, as well as mineral waters, to Russian stores. That explains a lot - in particular, the fact that Russia will not bargain with Georgia over the embargo lift in exchange for WTO accession.
"That does not mean that we are imposing our will, or limit the rights of Belarus and Kazakhstan in their use of products but it's our right to demand adoption of comprehensive measures for these goods not to penetrate the territory of Russia, - head of Federal Supervision Agency for Customer Protection and Human Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor) stated.
Certainly, this statement by Gennady Onishenko is not a request to be accepted or rejected. This demand is governed by certain regulations stipulated in the legislation of the Customs Union between Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. Mutual trade activity that the countries are planning to carry out, means a unique customs tariff, no customs duties or any economic constraints. Most probably, Georgian authorities hope that this provision will help them take small amounts of Georgian wine and mineral waters to the territory of the Russian Federation through Kazakh and Belarusian borders.
Not at all. Firstly, the Customs Code contains a limiting reservation on adoption of special protection, anti-dumping and compensatory measures. Secondly, in compliance with synchronized technical regulations, the RF Ministry of Health is free to take a decision and ban the products that, as the Russian side thinks, might be hazardous to its citizens:
- In this case it does not matter what mechanisms can be used to settle this problem. No expenses are needed. So one request from Mr. Onishenko, a very interesting character, is enough for Belarus and Kazakhstan to ban delivery of Georgian produce to the Russian market. Not only wine and mineral water, but other products made from Georgian wine materials. Otherwise, some problems may arise, as everyone knows well. As for Russia's accession into WTO, US President Barack Obama made it completely clear at a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that all problems will be settled before September 30 and nobody will put any more difficulties for Russia. However, three weeks ago US Assistant Secretary of State was on a visit to Georgia stating that Russia's entry into WTO will directly depend on Georgian produce issue settlement. WTO will be closed for Russia. What was Georgia hoping for? That the Georgian produce will have free access to Russia considering its free circulation in Belarus and Kazakhstan? But Gennady Onishenko hasn't accepted these expectations, and he will not, - Vadim Drobiz, Alkonews.ru analyst thinks.
A simple conclusion can be drawn out of the statement by Rospotrebnadzor head: Russia is ready to seek other ways to solve the problem of WTO accession and incur extra expenses to organize selective customs control and sales networks control instead of lifting economic embargo for Georgia.
The question is this: why do Georgian authorities that state that the country has lots of markets for its wines and mineral waters, need to return on the Russian market so much?
Vadim Drobiz believes that despite geographical extension of markets Georgia exaggerates the exported volumes:
In reality, in 2005 Georgia exported over 60 mln bottles, 50 mln of which went to Russia. Now Georgia exports nearly 10 mln bottles. The exports dropped by 5.5 times. Then Russia topped the list of countries consuming Georgian wines. Ukraine and Kazakhstan ranked second and third accordingly. After Russia rejected them by placing an economic embargo, Ukraine turned into a number one importer. But with the start of the economic crisis the imported volumes shrank twofold, since the products are not cheap. Last year Georgia's exports suffered a significant downturn - nearly 4 mln of bottles were exported. First six months of 2010 resulted in 6 mln bottles sales showing a 50% exports growth with the low-base effect. There is another curious thing here. Belarus produces Georgian wine from Georgian wine materials on the license. Most probably, Onishenko will not allow them in the territory of Russia either.
By all appearances, Georgia will have to kiss Russian market good bye.
Still, there is good news for the Georgian government. Recently Syria expressed willingness to join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan emphasizing regional importance of economic relations between Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Though only members of the Eurasian Economic Community can be members of the Customs Union, Syria may file a membership application and become a fully fledged partner of Moscow, Minks and Astana.
Probably, a refreshing sip of Georgian Borjomi will be available in Damascus?