Scuse reports improved business relationships during Russian trade mission

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2012- USDA Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse reported “a great deal of positive feedback” from St. Petersburg, Russia today on the last day of a trade mission to promote U.S. agricultural products.

“The quality of the products in the U.S. is recognized here in Russia,” he said. “The potential for business is very, very good.”

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Scuse discussed the trade mission, which began in Moscow on Monday, a day after the Senate passed legislation establishing permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with Russia.

“It's a very significant step for U.S. agribusiness because it puts us on the same playing field as the rest of the countries in the WTO,” he said. “Before it passed, we were at a disadvantage. Now we can move forward and hopefully increase our business.”

Since Russia gained access to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in August, Scuse said the country will have a set of standard rules as part of its WTO commitment. “The WTO accession is going to be a positive for both Russia and the U.S.,” he said, noting it will bring clarity to the United States' relationship with Russian business.

According to Scuse, the potential for increased business is obvious from the conversations he witnessed between Russia companies and the 21 U.S. agricultural business representatives and five state departments of agriculture accompanying him on the trip. 

According to USDA, two-way agricultural trade between the United States and Russia is valued at roughly $1.5 billion for fiscal year 2012, with American farm exports accounting for 97 percent of the total. 

Apart from likely growth in shipments of live cattle and staple products to Russia, Scuse noted previously unrealized opportunities for increased tree nut imports, as well as livestock and dairy feed supplements and demand for smaller agricultural equipment, including shoots, feeders and barbed wire.

The trip provided an opportunity for “our business community to sit down with the business community in Russia face-to-face,” Scuse said. “We have a preconceived notion of what business in Russia may be. We need to have a true understanding of what doing business is like today in Russia.”

He said the U.S. agricultural leaders were able to ask questions about the business climate in Russia. Scuse had a briefing with port facility officials in St. Petersburg today and learned how to best get products into the port and the actions of the facility to take care of those products.

“There are a lot of things we have learned that I think will make doing business for American companies that much easier,” he said, describing a perception that doing business is Russia is extremely difficult. “But a lot of that is not the case today,” noting he dealt with what he described as reputable companies with longstanding histories of making payments on time and taking care of products. “It's one of things our companies need to hear.”

When it comes to trade barrier issues, including sanitary and phytosanitary measures, Scuse said he met with the Russia's Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Oleg Aldoshin, on Monday afternoon and had a discussion “about some of the issues we face and the need for us to work through those barriers, which will benefit both our countries.”

Noting that one of the reasons for the trade mission was to “talk about some of the trade barriers we face,” he said he will continue to take part in trade barrier discussions with Russia, as will the U.S. Trade Representative and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.


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