Western nations crossed swords with Russia on Monday at the WTO,claiming that Moscow had breached global commerce rules by slapping tradeembargoes on goods from ex-communist countries."We have seen a lot of those measures and they are not convincing," said EuropeanUnion trade ambassador Angelos Pangratis.
"This is a situation where we see an important member not having the overallattitude that is expected. There is out there a real concern about a lot of practices,not just one or other specific issue," he told reporters.Since joining the WTO in 2012, Russia has imposed trade bans on goods such asdairy products, chocolates, wine and meat from countries including Lithuania,Poland, Moldova and Ukraine.Moscow has cited quality concerns that allow countries to take such a step underWTO rules. Critics say Russia offers little scientific evidence and claim the bans are
political, hitting countries that refuse to tow their Soviet-era master's line.US ambassador Michael Punke also hit out at Moscow's stance during what insiderssaid was an unusually heated meeting of the WTO's governing General Council,made up of all 159 member economies.In a statement at the meeting, Punke flagged major concerns over "a lack ofseriousness" on Russia's part about implementing its World Trade Organizationentry terms.Other members, including Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Norway andSwitzerland, backed the EU and US criticisms.- Russia 'building walls' -Punke condemned what he called Russia's "general rejection" of a WTO core goal:the reduction of trade barriers.Russia has come under fire for giving its automobile manufacturers an advantageby hitting foreign imports with extra fees, for example.The Geneva-based WTO polices global trade accords in an effort to offer its membereconomies a level playing field, and can authorise penalties against wrongdoers."More broadly, we note that Russia is moving increasingly to build walls around itseconomy, whether through implementing trade restricting measures such as thosealready mentioned or by adopting import substitution and local content rules thathave the same trade restrictive result," Punke said.Russia rejected the criticism and in turn lambasted EU energy market reforms, whichit says hurt its gas giant Gazprom. It has already asked the WTO to rule on theircompliance with international trade treaties.Moscow also condemned Western sanctions imposed after Russia seized Crimeafrom neighbouring Ukraine in March, which range from travel bans and assetfreezes to restrictions on banking operations.The West has ratcheted up the measures to punish what it says is continued Kremlinbacking for pro-Russian separatists in eastern and southern Ukraine.Maxim Medvekov, Russia's chief trade negotiator, told reporters that such measureswere totally out of line because they restrain tradeThere's a set of rules. If somebody's not implementing the rules, they shouldexplain why they are not doing so," he said.US ambassador Punke rejected the accusation, telling reporters: "We're extremelyconfident that the actions we are taking are WTO consistent."Russia's WTO accession negotiations ground on for more than a decade, andMoscow has argued that newcomers need time to adapt.But EU envoy Pangratis said that was only half the story."Any member who joins the WTO goes through a period of adapting. That's a fact oflife. And it's also normal to have disputes among members," he said."But what is really important here is the overall attitude and the number ofproblems that we are seeing.