US blasts Russia over poultry trade snag
President Barack Obama's top trade official accused Moscow on Wednesday of "unreasonably" delaying the resumption of US poultry exports to Russia with an 11th-hour demand for plant inspections.
"It's just not acceptable," US Trade Representative Ron Kirk told reporters after a Senate hearing on agricultural exports, adding that US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and other officials were trying to resolve the issue.
Kirk said Washington wants to help Moscow reach its goal of joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) but "it's issues like this, on poultry, that continue to frustrate us, frankly, and make us question their resolve to operate in a rules-based system."
The US Department of Agriculture gave the green light last week to US poultry exporters to resume shipments to Russia after nearly a seven-month ban by what was once the largest foreign market for US chicken.
On January 1, Russia banned the import of chicken treated with chlorinated water, a procedure commonly used by US producers to disinfect.
Kirk said the "new wrinkle" was a demand by Moscow to send inspectors to verify that US poultry plants meet the agreement's protocols, stranding exports that "literally" were "packed and ready to go."
"It's just not acceptable. We have an agreement, we've signed it, we've met that protocol, the USDA put out a list of what the plants were that met the protocol and we're ready to resume shipments now," he said.
"The frustration is that it just seems to always be something new, but the notion of having to come and inspect plants we think will just unnecessary and unreasonably delay the process and it's not compliant with what we've agreed to," Kirk told reporters.
Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss noted that the US Senate would soon weigh the new START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Moscow, yet "here we are, not being able to trust the Russians to keep their word on the imports of chickens into Russia."
© 2010 AFP