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Remarks by Ambassador Michael Punke on Russian Trade Measures
World Trade Organization
May 12, 2014
Today at a meeting of the WTO General Council, U.S. Ambassador Michael Punke delivered the following statement outlining a number of concerns regarding Russia’s performance in connection with its obligations under WTO rules. The United States has previously raised these and other related concerns in other committees of the World Trade Organization. The General Council discussion of Russian trade measures was requested by the European Union; in addition to the U.S. and the EU, nine other WTO Members raised concerns.
“The United States worked hard to support Russia’s accession to the WTO, believing that having Russia as part of the rules-based global trading system would benefit all. We remain convinced that WTO membership is a critical means of ensuring predictability and accountability, on the part of Russia and all Members, to the rules-based trading system.
“But at this point we are very concerned, both with what appears to be a lack of seriousness on the part of Russia in implementing some of its WTO accession commitments and, in fact, a general rejection by Russia of one of the underlying goals of the WTO – the reduction of barriers to global trade, acutely demonstrated by recent trade actions aimed at Members particularly reliant on trade with Russia.
“We are on the record now in the five meetings of the Council for Trade in Goods since Russia became a Member with some of our specific, accession-related concerns. Principal among them is the lack of transparency in Russia’s trading system.
“While we acknowledge the notifications and information provided to date by Russia, what is missing is of significant systemic importance.
“Russia has not responded to the follow-up questions raised in the February 2014 TRIPS Council meeting or the questions raised in the Import Licensing Committee. It has not notified numerous technical regulations and some of its safeguard measures. And despite seeking an outcome on RTAs transparency during its G20 host year, Russia has not provided the full set of information on its customs union and FTAs as required under the WTO’s RTA Transparency Mechanism. And now Russia is moving the Customs Union into the Eurasian Union, with potentially broader implications for economic relations among those countries, but has done nothing to notify this organization.
“Russia has never responded to the questions we provided in November 2012 on its recycling program. Those questions still stand, and we still expect answers to them, just as we expect it to be responsive in other Committees on other transparency matter.
“We also remain concerned with how the Russian Federation is implementing some of its SPS obligations. We are observing problems with the harmonization of sanitary and phytosanitary measures with the relevant international standards, and a failure to adopt inspection guidelines that are in accordance with Codex. In addition, Russia is failing to ensure that SPS measures that are more restrictive than international standards are based on science and are accompanied by risk analysis. Moreover, we are experiencing problems with regard to the approval of establishments for export to the Russian Federation and Customs Union territory. Despite numerous discussions with Russia, we have seen little progress and remain concerned with Russia's implementation of its SPS obligations. We hope that Russia will work to bring its regime into compliance with its WTO commitments.
“In addition to those SPS measures that directly affect the United States, we note with concern Russia’s recent bans on imports of food and beverages from neighboring countries without evidence of valid SPS concerns. The products affected include dairy products from Lithuania and Ukraine, chocolates from Ukraine, wine and other agricultural products from Moldova and prepared meats from Poland, Lithuania and Moldova.
“With regard to tariffs, Russia has seemingly attempted to, at best obfuscate and at worse increase, various tariff rates by adding minimum tariffs to a number of lines.
“More broadly, we note that Russia is moving increasingly to build walls around its economy, whether through implementing trade restricting measures such as those already mentioned or by adopting import substitution and local content rules that have the same trade restrictive result.
“We hope that Russia will begin to engage substantively with us in the various committees of the WTO, in order to ensure that the obligations Russia assumed in becoming a WTO Member are being faithfully implemented.”