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Russia's Ban on U.S. poultry imports to end April 10.

U.S. and Russian officials reached a protocol agreement in which Russia agreed it would lift its ban on U.S. poultry products by April 10, subject to certain conditions. U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow said that he and Russia's chief veterinary inspector, Mikhail Kravchuk, had signed a protocol on Sunday that contained a "clear commitment" by Russia to end the poultry ban before April 10. Vershbow said the U.S. will take measures before that date "to reassure the Russian side about our inspection system and also to remedy some problems that have arisen with respect to veterinary certificates." According to the protocol, "After the U.S. side fully complies with the actions...the Russian veterinary service will lift the temporary ban on U.S. poultry exports before April 10, 2002."

In a briefing, Vershbow said the U.S. agreed to exclude, temporarily, 14 poultry plants from a list of exporters, pending inspection of sanitary conditions because their products were found to contain salmonella. "When the ban is lifted, all other U.S. companies will be able to resume trade, and hopefully the other plants will soon be reinstated," Vershbow said.

The protocol cites salmonella as the primary problem, although it was not cited as the central concern at the time the trade ban began on March 10. Vershbow listed two major issues in the trade dispute: discovery of salmonella in some imported poultry and discrepancies, including alleged forgery, in some veterinary documents. Vershbow stressed that there was no evidence that U.S. poultry shipments to Russia deviated from a 1996 agreement on health standards. "We have heard of no cases where any poultry products have caused any harm to the Russian consumer," he said.

President Bush's May 23-26 visit to Russia seems to have had a major impact on this issue. According to Vershbow, "With the visit of President Bush just two months away, we need to start working to expand our areas of cooperation now that this obstacle appears to have been removed." He added that the Russia-U.S. poultry trade dispute "has caused some harm to bilateral economic relations -- that's undeniable." Vershbow revealed that the ban had been "the No. 1 problem in U.S.-Russian relations over the past month" and "has engaged at least five Cabinet ministers on my side, and even President George W. Bush, who has spoken to [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin directly about this."

Richard Boucher, a spokesman at the State Department, told reporters March 28 that President Bush had raised the issue in a telephone conversation with Putin on March 27. "We have tried to keep the issue before the Russian authorities," Boucher said. "We have tried to work this out on a scientific basis." Boucher revealed that Secretary of State Colin Powell and USDA Secretary Ann Veneman also had sent a letter to their Russian counterparts early in the week of March 25 discussing the issue.

Vershbow complained that Russia had fostered negative publicity about the safety of American food exports, tactics that he said could complicate Russia's desire to join the World Trade Organization (WTO). He said "the issue of antibiotics and other substances used in poultry processing is a subject for discussions in the next phase of our negotiations."

Vladimir Fisinin, head of the Russian Poultry Union and vice president of the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences, on Friday said the protocol includes the following:

* U.S. producers whose poultry is found to contain the salmonella bacteria will be excluded from a list of suppliers until they pass both U.S. and Russian inspections;

* The introduction of a veterinary certificate verified with a stamp and signed by Kravchuk's U.S. counterpart;

* U.S. and Russian veterinary services will be allowed to re-inspect all 400 U.S. firms/farms that have permission to export their poultry to Russia.
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Comment:Russia's Ban on U.S. poultry imports to end April 10.
Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 8, 2002
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