Belarus makes concessions to the Russian dairy lobby
The Russian National Union of Milk Producers (“Soyuzmoloko”) on February, 20 published an open letter addressed to the Russian Ministry of Agriculture and the Minister of Agriculture and Foodstuffs of Belarus Mikhail Rusoy requesting to regulate the relationships between the two countries in the diary market immediately. “Soyuzmoloko” informed that the selling prices recommended by the Ministry of Agriculture of Belarus for the Russian market were “disastrous”.
“Soyuzmoloko” proposed to delete full cream milk powder and whey powder from the list of dairy products supplied by the Belarusian enterprises to Russia until the end of 2012, making appropriate adjustments to the balance of trade. The organization also believes it is necessary to increase the indicative prices for imports of butter and skimmed milk from Belarus. Regardless of such obvious protectionism, Belarus did not step into the battle field. On 21 February the Deputy Minister of Agriculture Elena Skrynnik reported, that the proposed foods could not be removed from the balance due to the fact that the principal issues of cooperation within the Customs Union have already been agreed upon. However, Belarus confirmed its readiness to adjust the indicative prices and supply volumes of dairy products to the Russian market immediately in order to prevent oversupply and dumping of the market.
Therefore the emerging conflict was immediately extinguished by loyalty of the Belarusian side. Belarus has demonstrated its willingness to have a dialogue. It implies that the leadership is not ready for a following round of trade wars, thereby confirming weak positions of Belarus in the CES and in the CU and its dependence on the goodwill of the Russian leadership.
Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei participated in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Group initiative hosted by Warsaw. The Belarusian FM emphasized Belarus' interest in cooperation in the transport sector, which could be due to Belarus’ desire to export electricity surplus after Belarus finished construction of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Minsk expressed concerns about Warsaw’s stance on the Belarusian NPP, as it refused to buy electricity from Belarus and supported Vilnius’ protest on this issue. Following accusations by the Belarusian leadership and the state media against western states, including Poland, of training "nationalist militants", Minsk did not agree on the visit of the European Parliament deputies from Lithuania and Germany to Belarus and to the NPP construction site near Ostrovets in particular. In addition, the Belarusian authorities have stepped up efforts to enforce education in Russian in Polish-language schools in Grodno and Vaukavysk. Should a rift in Belarusian-Polish relations persist, the Belarusian authorities are likely to step up the pressure on the Polish-speaking minority in Belarus.