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Customs Union Agreed With Belarus, Kazakhstan

Published: December 1, 2009 (Issue # 1531)


MOSCOW — Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan on Friday gave the go-ahead for the creation of a united customs union, whose tariff regime will be based largely on the one that Russia currently has in place.

President Dmitry Medvedev met with his counterparts Alexander Lukashenko and Nursultan Nazarbayev in Minsk on Friday, where they agreed to the creation of a unified customs tariff, which will start Jan. 1, as well as a unified customs code, which will go into effect July 1.

“This is a very significant and long-awaited event, which has come into being through very difficult negotiations,” Medvedev told a news conference after the meeting, Interfax reported.

About 92 percent of the new tariff regime is based on current Russian duties, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said.

And as Russia has, on average, the highest tariffs of the group, that means that Kazakhstan and Belarus will be raising duties on a wide swathe of items.

“We had to agree with our partners on lowering certain customs tariffs on certain groups of goods, and our partners had to raise certain tariffs,” Shuvalov said, adding that Kazakhstan had to raise tariffs on more than 5,000 items.

“This is a difficult process. … It was necessary to make compromises in order to ensure all the decisions could go into effect starting Jan. 1,” he said.

But with Russia as the largest external market for both Belarus and Kazakhstan, raising tariffs remains a lucrative bet for both countries.

“The creation of the customs union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan will allow the three countries to raise their gross domestic product 15 percent by 2015,” Nazarbayev said. “A common market with a GDP of $2 trillion will be attractive for investors.”

Nevertheless, there are still several sore points remaining in the formation of a unified customs tariff, said Alexei Portansky, head of the information office for Russia’s WTO bid.

“These sore points will affect the economies of each of the three countries — for example, the customs duties on cars in Belarus, which are lower than those in Russia,” Portansky told The St. Petersburg Times.

The countries still haven’t agreed to a set of automobile tariffs, but the Russian side is concerned that the tentative plan for duties would lead to a flood of used cars from Belarus and Kazakhstan and crush the domestic auto market.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBA’s ongoing “Breakfast with the Director” series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at “Sounds of the Universe,” a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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