On December 7, 2012 Russia's Federal Agency for Agricultural Control, Rosselhohznadzor, banned the imports of meat containing ractopamine. This is a food additive that allows to reduce the content of fat in beef and pork. The drug is added to food so that animals grow the muscle mass instead of fat. According to researchers, ractopamine affects the human cardiovascular system, and in some cases can cause food poisoning. This drug is banned for use in 160 countries, including China and Russia. It is allowed in 24 countries, including Canada and the United States. Codex Alimentarius of the World Health Organization, adopted in July 2012 in Rome by representatives of 186 countries, allows the contents of ractopamine in meat.
Formally, Russia does not prohibit the delivery of pork and beef from the United States. It only notified a number of countries, including the US of A, of the need to provide documents saying that animals had not been fed ractopamine - the drug that is banned in Russia. However, the warned countries (in addition to the U.S. the list includes Canada, Brazil and Mexico and excludes 20 countries where the drug is used) do not have the appropriate expertise, because there was no need to have it before. Rosselkhoznadzor promised to introduce a transitional period for those countries, until about the end of January 2013. However, specific implementation mechanisms remain unclear.
As for foreign countries, the move of the Russian Agency for Agricultural Control will hit the United States most. Russia is the fourth largest importer of U.S. meat and spends about $500 million a year on it. The Russian market consumes 0.6 percent of all beef and 1.4 percent of pork produced in the United States. More than 200 containers of meat products worth about $20 million are currently on their way to Russia from the United States.
However, the lack of U.S. meat on the Russian market will affect the Russian economy. The pork from the United States comes fourth on the volume of shipments to Russia. In total, the share of imported meat in the Russian market makes up not less than a third.
The United States regards the ban of meat imports as a political move. According to American analysts, Russia has reacted so to the recent adoption of the Magnitsky Act by the U.S. Congress. On December 6, the U.S. Senate almost unanimously (92 votes "for" and 4 - "against") approved the bill that imposed visa and financial sanctions against Russian officials involved, according to Washington, in the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer of Hermitage investment fund. The first three parts of this document are devoted to the interaction of Russia and the U.S. in the WTO. In particular, the bill abolishes the Jackson-Vanik amendment for Russia and Moldova, which was adopted in 1974. It is expected that U.S. President Barack Obama will sign the bill in the near future.
"This seems to be in retaliation to the Senate's passage of the trade bill with Russia ... there is certainly no doubt about it," Rich Nelson, chief strategist at research and brokerage company Allendale Inc, said.
Russian officials were surprised to know that US analysts associated the ban on meat imports with the Magnitsky Act.
"One can speculate about whether it was done in retaliation or not, but the measure was based on the content of some additives in meat that are contrary to Russian sanitary standards," deputy director of the Institute of the USA and Canada, Victor Supyan told Pravda.Ru.
Previously, the Russian side promised to take comprehensive, multidimensional and extremely strong measures should the Magnitsky Act be adopted in the USA. Presently, the United States accuses Russia of violating WTO rules. "All WTO members break these rules. This is normal," Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said in response to similar accusations in November of this year in an interview with the Kommersant newspaper. However, on Saturday, U.S. officials said they were expecting actions from Russia to change the situation. The U.S. side expressed a hope that in the near future Russia would remove the ban on the imports of meat, thus fulfilling its obligations as a WTO member. Russia, in turn, does not see any violations in its actions.