Joining WTO will expand opportunity to cut poor quality imports - watchdog

Joining the WTO will give Russia wider opportunities to restrict the import of poor quality and dangerous products, the head of the Russian agriculture watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor, Sergei Dankvert, has said. The number of suppliers may be considerably reduced, he said.

"We are now looking at a situation associated with section 7 of an agreement on the application of sanitary and phytosanitary measures and are forecasting possible consequences," Dankvert told Interfax.

"This section says that in cases where a scientifically justified ban [on imports] is insufficient, any WTO member can impose temporary sanitary and phytosanitary restrictions based on the relevant information, including information obtained from the corresponding international organizations and information about the sanitary and phytosanitary measures applied by other members," he said. "And this last provision is the most important."

After joining the WTO, Russia can look at joining measures that other countries apply, he said.

Analysis of the measures used by other countries indicates that Russia could close imports from the EU due to certain complaints against it from the United States, imports from the United States due to complaints from the EU, imports from Brazil due to complaints from the United States and the EU and so on.

"If we take the use of hormone drugs, for example, they are only allowed in 26 countries and not approved in the rest. We can join those countries that do not allow them and the measures that they have adopted with regard the countries where they are allowed," he said.

The scope of this section of the agreement is so broad that "if it is officially adopted we could be talking about closing all markets, because they have closed each other long ago," he added.

Dankvert noted that it should be taken into consideration that Russia did not inspect national WTO member veterinary services for equivalence of product safety requirements. "Therefore, upon WTO accession when various procedures are simplified we cannot accept guarantees from countries with a poor track record as a result of inspections in their companies by Russian specialists. This guarantee cannot be accepted without additional conditions, which must be worked out in additional bilateral protocols," he said.

The inspections carried out by Russian specialists were different from the audit system of national services, Dankvert said.

Among the additional conditions, he mentioned stronger monitoring of imports to be able to assess the safety guarantees given by national veterinary services. "Recently the number of returns of poor quality and dangerous products abroad has increased, indicating that the guarantees given by many countries are not justified," he said. The situation is exacerbated by inaccurate certification, when there are attempts to bring in one product under the guise of another.

There were 18 returns of livestock products registered in Leningrad region over the last month, Dankvert said.

The number of importer companies could go down after Russia joins the WTO, he said. "This could mean companies included in the list of suppliers under unreliable guarantees, companies that were not inspected by federal services, but a lower rank service or not inspected at all, we also have such cases, or companies that are listed as importers but have not sent their products to Russia for a long time," he said.

Rosselkhoznadzor has the biggest concern in this regard with the German veterinary service, which, it says, cannot ensure the safety of products imported to Russia. Russian veterinary specialists plan to hold talks with their German colleagues after July 16 and discuss the issues that have arisen, including the guarantees given by the German veterinary service.

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