Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 141

Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin completed a three day visit to Brussels on July 20, but made little progress in his efforts to persuade the European Union to lift the current restrictions on Russian exports. Jacques Santer, the head of the European Commission, offered to initiate a policy review, but the proposal was dismissed by the Russian side as a "delaying tactic." The only concrete accomplishment of the trip was that Chernomyrdin signed a deal with a Distrigas to deliver 500 million cubic meters of gas next year. Last week Russian officials succeeded in tracking down a consignment of British beef which had been illegally exported to Russia by a Belgian firm via Holland, and which is suspect because of "mad cow" disease. (Itar-Tass, 20 July; Kommersant-daily, 19 July)

Russia wants the EU to classify it as a "market economy" rather than a transition economy, a move that would make it more difficult for European producers to bring anti-dumping suits against Russian exporters. On July 20 Georgy Gabunina, Russia’s deputy foreign trade minister, complained that the Central and East European countries were all easily accepted as market economies by the EU "without any profound analysis, criteria or standards." He also said that negotiations with the EU are even "more absurd" than with the U.S., because EU trade legislation "remains on the same level as during the Cold War."

Russian officials complain that EU trade barriers, which effect 40 percent of Russian exports, along with subsidized European exports, together cost the country $1 billion a year in lost trade. In 1996 Russia exported $27 billion to the EU and imported $17 billion. Russia is particularly angry with textile quotas, since Russia imported $750 million worth of textiles from the EU and was only allowed to export $140 million in return. Moscow’s complaints, however, are likely to fall on deaf ears: the EU’s trade policy is set in stone, and the community’s internal problems will likely prevent it from making any grand gestures towards Russia in this regard.

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