Russian Official Says U.S. Meat Cos 'Not Coming Back' After Sanctions Lift


Russian politicians are doing what politicians do best: making bold statements that often bear no resemblance to reality.

On Wednesday, Sergei Dankvert, the head of Russia’s food safety agency, Rosselkhoznadzor, said that his country’s recent ban on pork and beef from the U.S. will be replaced by China and India for now. And when the sanctions lift, he said in a statement in Russian on the agency’s website, the American suppliers are not welcome back.

“Russia’s Far East used to be heavily reliant on meat supplies from the United States and Canada. Now that we are actively cooperating with China’s veterinary authorities on…pork supplies from certain highly-integrated Chinese enterprises, the U.S. and Canadian suppliers will not be able to come back,” Dankvert said.

Russia imported 619,200 tons of pork valued at $2.13 billion in 2013. Brazil, Denmark, Germany and Canada were the principal suppliers. Canada exported 79,300 tons last year, worth $246.3 million, and US pork exporters shipped $19 million worth of pork. Russia imported 658,400 tons of frozen meat last year, worth $2.87 billion, with Belarus and Brazil among the top sellers.

Russia slapped a ban on many European, U.S. and Canadian food exporters on August 7 in response to additional sanctions levied on Russian businesses by Brussels and Washington.

All three have been mired in economic combat since March, when Russia annexed the autonomous region of Crimea from Ukraine. Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula, voted to secede when a new government, formed by pro-Western Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, banned the Russian language in all official government communications. Crimea, which is majority ethnic Russians, quickly moved to distance itself from Kiev. It found itself in Russia’s arms. Brussels and Washington say the annexation was against international law.

Andrey Goltsblat, an international lawyer and Managing Partner at Goltsblat BLP, the Russian practice of Berwin Leighton Paisner, said the legalities of the Crimea annexation has no easy answer. But with regards to sanctions, countries like China and India cannot be punished economically by the U.S. or Europe for supplying Russia.

“These are sovereign nations so the U.S. cannot punish them for working with Russia,” he said. “What they can do is apply political pressure. But at this point, no side wants these sanctions to continue. There would have to be serious violations in Ukraine by the Russians before there are more sanctions. These will be maintained and then come down. Companies want to see these removed soonest,” Goltsblat said.

Russia’s food safety official can say Chines pigs can dance and sing if he wants, still Dankvert has national rules to obey. Rosselkhoznadzor only has the authority to ban meat packing facilities, or entire companies, because of food safety problems.

If Russia’s market for food imports is lifted, and American firms are banned on the grounds of a food safety issue, American companies that have had contracts with Russian importers in the past and are looking to continue their relationship could take the matter to the World Trade Organization as unwarranted protectionism.  Rosselkhoznadzor cannot sanction a company. It can only ban imports from facilities and companies not up to Russian food safety standards.

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