Only weeks after Washington and Moscow had apparently resolved a conflict over barriers to the import of U.S. chicken parts, Russian president Boris Yeltsin yesterday ordered his government to introduce import tariffs on a range of food products as of July 1. (Financial Times, April 19) Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin reportedly told a cabinet meeting yesterday that rising food imports "damage the interests of domestic producers seriously." According to Chernomyrdin, the share of imported goods on the Russian market, including those from the CIS states, had in 1995 for the first time exceeded 50 percent. He also suggested that most food quality violations involved imported food products.
Although foreign suppliers were said to be concerned by the announcements, they also wondered whether they represented real policy decisions or election season rhetoric. (Itar-Tass, Reuter, April 18) Russian first deputy prime minister Oleg Soskovets reportedly met with U.S. ambassador Thomas Pickering, at Pickering’s request, on the eve of the announcements, but the results of their talks were not publicized. (Itar-Tass, April 17)
Yeltsin, who has been electioneering in the southern Russian agricultural regions of Krasnodar and Stavropol, has also signed a decree freeing farms from "certain debt payments," promising higher agricultural subsidies, halving farmers’ electricity charges, and ordering the government to protect domestic food producers through import quotas and duties. The president’s press service said the decree was intended to boost agricultural production. It will please Russia’s vociferous farm lobby, but dismay international bodies such as the European Union and the World Trade Organization.
Solana Visit to Baltic States Inconclusive.