Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has expressed hope that a recent dairy trade dispute with Belarus will not harm bilateral economic ties.
"I hope that it will not hamper the development of cooperation in the agricultural sphere that is normal on the whole, as well as our concerted actions regarding the accession to the WTO [World Trade Organization], because we have created a special customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan and will now be joining the WTO together," RIA Novosti quoted the Russian leader as saying in an interview that was to be broadcast by Russia’s Channel One on Sunday.
Earlier this month, the Russian authorities banned the import of nearly all Belarusian dairy products, citing the producers’ failure to meet Russia’s new food standards in effect since December 2008.
Furious over the move, Alyaksandr Lukashenka boycotted a security summit in Moscow on June 14, while the Belarusian authorities reintroduced customs checks at the Russian border.
The ban was lifted last week and Belarusian dairy plants have already resumed deliveries to Russia. In the interview, Mr. Medvedev acknowledged that Moscow was puzzled by Minsk’s angry reaction. "The situation is absolutely simple - one should trade in a civilized manner, even such close, brotherly nations like Russia and Belarus should. We said as far back as a year ago that they needed to obtain new certificates for the meat and dairy produce that Belarus exports [to Russia]," he was quoted as saying. The Russian president accused the Belarusian producers of "doing nothing" for a year to comply with the new rules.
"The second reason is that our market is big but not infinite. We have our own producers who are more dear to us than others, no matter what warm and brotherly feelings we have for Belarusian partners," he said.