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Cablegate: Russian Officials Try to Explain Recent Veterinary

VZCZCXRO0742
RR RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #2979/01 2820347
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 080347Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0278
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHVI/AMEMBASSY VIENNA 4669
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 5220
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 002979

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/RUS
STATE PLS PASS USTR (EPORTER, BHAFNER, CKLEIN)
USDA FAS FOR OCRA (SALMON, KUYPERS) AND FOR OSTA (HAMILTON,
BEAN)
VIENNA PLS PASS APHIS (TANAKA)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ETRD ECON WTO RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIAN OFFICIALS TRY TO EXPLAIN RECENT VETERINARY
LETTERS

REF: A. MOSCOW 2949
B. MOSCOW 2788

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) On October 6, Chief Russian WTO Negotiator Maksim
Medvedkov told us that he views the October 1 letter from the
Russian Federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance
Service (VPSS) as a request for consultations on the
effectiveness of the implementation of the November 2006
U.S.-Russia side letter on meat/poultry plant inspections,
rather than an outright refusal to authorize U.S. meat
facilities for export to Russia. Medvedkov also stated that
the Ministry of Economic Development (MED) is still
consulting with other ministries regarding the September 16
VPSS letter which questioned the continuing validity of the
November 2006 U.S.-Russia Market Access Agreement and Side
Letters. He noted that Economic Development Minister
Nabiulliana and Agriculture Minister Gordeyev had discussed
the issue, and in MED's view, the November 2006 agreements
and side letters are still in force. Separately, Chief
Veterinary Officer and VPSS Deputy Head Nikolay Vlasov told
us that VPSS would not accept any relisting of facilities
that had previously been removed from the list of authorized
exporters, but it still might be possible to authorize new
facilities for export.

--------------------------------------------- -----------
October 1 VPSS Letter: Just a Request for Consultations?
--------------------------------------------- -----------

2. (SBU) In a meeting with Agriculture Minister-Counselor and
EconOffs on October 6, Chief WTO Negotiator Maksim Medvedkov
told us that he does not interpret the October 1 VPSS letter
(Ref A) as an attempt to abrogate the November 2006
U.S.-Russia Market Access Agreement and Side Letters.
Instead, he views the letter as a description of recent
problems with the certification of U.S. meat/poultry exports,
and an evaluation of the effectiveness of VPSS' cooperation
with the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). He
believed that the letter was intended to begin a consultative
process to discuss and find solutions to outstanding problems
in the current certification system for U.S. meat/poultry
exports to Russia. Medvedkov added that VPSS had recently
entered into similar consultations on meat exports with the
EU following a letter from VPSS.

3. (SBU) Embassy officers noted that we still considered the
November 2006 agreement and side letters to be in force.
When asked to clarify whether the October 1 VPSS letter meant
that VPSS would no longer relist plants for export or add new
plants to the list of authorized exporters, Medvedkov
admitted there was some ambiguity in the letter and advised
us to seek clarification from VPSS.

4. (SBU) Agriculture Minister-Counselor noted that it would
be useful to discuss the effective implementation of our
agricultural agreements, and USDA would certainly consider
the request for consultations on the side letter after
November 20, 2008. There were easy solutions to some issues
in the VPSS letter, including the question of electronic
notification of incoming shipments to Russia (the Russia
e-mail box was full and not able to receive additional
notifications). In other cases, the U.S. side was waiting
for fuller explanations from VPSS about the nature of Russian
concerns. For example, on the issue of alleged trace levels
of arsenic and antibiotics in some tested samples of U.S.
chicken, the U.S. side had not received an explanation of the
scientific basis for Russian standards, which were stricter
than either U.S. or international norms.

5. (SBU) Medvedkov acknowledged that some Russian food safety
standards were not consistent with international norms. He
noted that during plurilateral WTO accession negotiations in
Geneva, Russia had proposed that trading partners identify

MOSCOW 00002979 002 OF 002


instances in which Russia's norms were inconsistent. After
notification, VPSS could provide the scientific basis for
Russian standards or eventually bring those standards into
conformity with international norms. Medvedkov noted that
under Russia's current legal regime, VPSS was under no
obligation to provide a scientific rationale for its sanitary
norms. However, he said that amendments to Russia's Law on
Technical Regulations would hopefully be sent to the Duma in
November, and would make Russian practice consistent with WTO
rules on sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) and
technical barriers to trade (TBT).

--------------------------------------------- --------
September 16 Letter: Crescendo of Protectionist Voices
--------------------------------------------- ---------

6. (SBU) Medvedkov noted that Economic Development Minister
Nabiullina had discussed the September 16 VPSS letter
questioning the validity of the U.S.-Russia market access
agreement and side letters with Agriculture Minister
Gordeyev, but there was still no unified GOR position on this
issue. He noted that MED had taken the position that the
market access agreement and side letters were still in force
and that there was an orderly procedure for officially
withdrawing from a country-to-country agreement, which had
not been followed by the GOR in this case. He expressed hope
that "in the nearest future" either MED or VPSS could provide
the U.S. side with further clarification on the meaning of
the September 16 letter. Medvedkov admitted that an
increasingly strong chorus of voices within the GOR had been
arguing for a delay in the implementation of all of the
commitments Russia had agreed to in advance of accession,
until the actual date of WTO entry.

--------------------------------------------- -------
VPSS: No More Relistings, But New Listings May be OK
--------------------------------------------- -------

7. (SBU) In a separate conversation with USDA/FAS officers,
Chief Veterinary Officer and Deputy Head of VPSS Nikolay
Vlasov implied that the decision to issue the October 1 VPPS
letter had been made by more senior officials at the
Agriculture Ministry and there was little he could do about
it. Vlasov said that, in his reading of the letter, VPSS
would not be able to relist any plants that had previously
been delisted for sanitary reasons. He believed that it
would still be permissible for FSIS to request that new
facilities be listed for export, although he would need to
confirm that understanding with VPSS Head Sergey Dankvert.

-------
COMMENT
-------

8. (SBU) The different interpretations of the October 1 VPSS
letter that we received from Medvedkov and Vlasov make clear
that there has been no coordination among ministries
regarding VPSS actions. The VPSS is doing everything within
its power to protect domestic poultry, pork and beef
producers by restricting the flow of U.S. imports. Given
that it has been over three weeks since the September 16 VPSS
letter, MED either lacks sufficient power or is simply in no
hurry to rein in the protectionist forces at the Agriculture
Ministry. While it is encouraging that MED still considers
our agreements to be in force, it is cold comfort at this
point, given that VPSS is still free to disregard the
procedures for listing and relisting plants that were
established in the November 2006 side letter on meat
inspections.
RUBIN

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