Moscow accuses Turkey of violating WTO rules amid debate on ‘wheat ban’
ANKARA/MOSCOWRussia has accused Turkey of violating WTO regulations on grain after Turkish importers largely ceased purchasing Russian grain even as officials in Ankara declared that no ban had been imposed on the product amid mutual recriminations on trade.
“Our closest neighbor, Turkey, has built up a strong milling industry subsidized by the government, tapping almost all the Arab and Asian markets on the basis of our grain, blatantly violating all WTO rules,” Russian Deputy Agriculture Minister Sergei Levin said March 21, as reported by TASS.
According to Levin, Russia has not assumed similar supportive measures, which is why it now exports grain instead of flour.
But Ankara said Turkey has not banned purchases of grain – mainly wheat, maize and sunflower oil – from Russia, but noted that imports could be halted as Turkish companies choose to avoid buying from Moscow.
Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci reiterated Ankara’s denial of any formal ban, but said the annual $1.83 billion of agricultural imports from Moscow could fall to zero. He gave no specific reason why companies did not want to import from Russia.
But despite what he called better political relations with Russia, “this improvement in political ties is not fully reflected yet in economic relations. Currently, the restrictions on visas and obstacles for contractors are fully in place,” he said, as quoted by Reuters on March 21.
Last week, import licenses issued by the Turkish government no longer included Russia in a list of accepted tax-free origins, the sources said, suggesting an import tariff of 130 percent could be applied to supplies from Russia.
Russia imposed trade restrictions on Turkish goods and other sanctions after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border in November 2015. Despite political normalization and the lifting of some sanctions against Turkey, Russia retains measures against a number of Turkish products.