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Cablegate: Moscow: Import Safety Working Group

VZCZCXYZ0018
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMO #4243/01 2411440
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 291440Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3389
INFO RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC PRIORITY 5027

UNCLAS MOSCOW 004243

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EEB/TPP/ABT (SAXTON), EUR/RUS (PATTERSON)
USDA FOR FAS/OA/JACKSON, OSTA/BRANT, OCRA/FLEMINGS, PASS
FSIS AND APHIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON ETRD TBIO RS
SUBJECT: MOSCOW: IMPORT SAFETY WORKING GROUP

REF: A. SAXTON-CATON EMAIL (8/22)
B. STATE 114788
C. MOSCOW 3724
D. MOSCOW 3039
E. MOSCOW 1691
F. MOSCOW 767
G. 06 MOSCOW 12692
H. 06 MOSCOW 12302 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On August 20, we provided information on
the President's Interagency Working Group on Import Safety to
a wide range of Russian government offices. Contacts at the
Ministry of Health and Social Development (MOHSD) expressed
general interest in participating in a future dialog on food
and product safety, but asked for additional detail. They
agreed to circulate Ref B points to colleagues and promised a
coordinated response by the end of September. Since 2004
Embassy Moscow has been engaged in a food safety dialog with
Russian counterparts, with a primary focus on protectionist
policies and abuse of sanitary and phytosanitary standards,
and we note that such discussion is apt to continue to be
difficult. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) We provided information on the President's
Interagency Working Group on Import Safety to the Ministries
of Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Economic Development and
Trade (MEDT), and Health and Social Development, and the
Federal Service for Consumer Protection and Human Well-Being
(Rospotrebnadzor) on August 20. Representatives of the
International Departments of MOHSD and Rospotrebnadzor
welcomed the establishment of the Working Group and expressed
general interest in participating in a future dialog on food
and product safety, but asked for additional information on
the working group's strategic goals and possible topics for
discussion. MOHSD agreed to circulate Ref B points to other
counterparts in the Russian government and promised a formal
response by the end of September.

3. (SBU) On August 23, EST officer met with Oleg Chestnov,
deputy director of MOHSD's International Department and
Marina Sheviryova, deputy director of MOHSD's Department of
Human Welfare and Consumer Protection. According to
Chestnov, at least three groups within MOHSD would be
involved in issues of the safety of food or goods:
Sheviryova's Department of Human Welfare and Consumer
Protection, Rospotrebnadzor which handles food and most
consumer goods, and the Federal Service for Supervision of
Health Care and Social Development (Roszdravnador) which
covers drugs and medical equipment. (NOTE: Russian exports
to the United States in 2006 totalled $19.8 billion, led by
oil and other petroleum products, aluminum, metals and
nuclear fuels. U.S. exports to Russia were primarily
machinery, meat -- mostly poultry, -- electrical equipment
and high tech products. END NOTE)

4. (SBU) Citing asbestos as an example, Chestov noted that
Russia and the United States may not use the same approaches
or have the same standards for determining whether a food
product or consumer good is safe and does not pose a threat
to human health or the environment. Given the absence of
uniform standards among different countries, Chestov said a
dialog might provide a way to reach agreement in certain
areas. In going forward and to avoid misunderstandings, he
indicated that it would be critical to identify three areas:
(1) agreed standards of health and safety; (2) areas of
difference where discussion would be useful and we could work
toward adopting a common approach, and (3) issues of
fundamental disagreement where we are unlikely to make
progress that should be left "to the future generation."

5. (SBU) COMMENT: Seeking to engage with Russian
authorities on food safety is apt to be difficult. Embassy
Moscow has been engaged in a food safety dialog with Russian
counterparts in the federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary
Service (VPSS) and Rospotrebnadzor since those bodies were
created in April 2004. Much of the discussion has revolved
around Russia's overtly protectionist trade stance and
restriction of trade through abuse of sanitary and
phytosanitary standards that do not conform to international
norms and the effect of that on Russia's bid to accede to the
World Trade Organization. The Agriculture Office here sends
and receives an average of a letter on the issue every
working day. Digital video conferences between U.S. and
Russian veterinary authorities are held regularly. In the
past two months, two teams of Russian veterinary specialists
have traveled to the United States to inspect poultry and
pork slaughter, processing and cold storage facilities.
Another team of nine Russian veterinarians is scheduled to
inspect U.S. beef facilities in September.

6. (SBU) Two years ago, former Russian Deputy Minister of
Agriculture Sergey Mitin told a visiting Codel that food
imported from abroad posed the greatest threat of
bioterrorism to Russia. His statement encapsulates the
drumbeat of press releases issued by VPSS each time a
shipment of food products is seized for alleged violation of
Russian food safety rules. Likewise, Rospotrebnadzor has
imposed bans on imports of Georgian and Moldovan wines and on
Georgian mineral water purportedly out of concern for food
safety and public health, although many observers believe
those bans were actually politically motivated. Embassy has
reported extensively on the context in which Russian import
safety mechanisms (Refs C-H) among others operate which
Washington agencies should find helpful. Additional
reporting, including GAIN RS7046 and RS7326, can be found on
Embassy Moscow's classified website under the rubric
"Agriculture Reporting." END COMMENT.
Burns

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