Russia has been working on becoming a member of the World Trade Organization, and it appears that those efforts are gaining momentum. Negotiations on the issue have been underway in recent weeks.

“U.S. trade negotiators have been in constant talks with their Russian counterparts to resolve a number of outstanding issues as both countries hope to wrap up negotiations soon,” reports the National Pork Producers Council.

However, NPPC officials are concerned with the progress of those negotiations. Leading the list of concerns is the issue of an established tariff-rate quota for pork imports, which remains unresolved, but also the sanitary and phytosanitary equivalency agreement has not been reached. 

Russian officials tend to use out-dated sanitary and phytosanitary requirements as an on-again/off-again trade obstacle with meat importers. As a matter of fact, U.S. pork sales to Russia dropped from 203,000 metric tons in 2008 to 83,000 metric tons in 2010. “Those losses are the result of Russia’s unjustified SPS barriers and unilateral reduction of its tariff rate quotas for U.S. pork,” NPPC officials point out.

NPPC has been working closely with the Obama administration to obtain the best possible market access deal through Russia’s WTO accession negotiations. “NPPC’s priority is to establish more certainty and predictability in the Russian market for U.S. pork exporters through the elimination of SPS barriers and a large tariff rate quota,” council officials say. 

Some  83 members of the U.S. House of Representatives also have challenged Russia to do its part to ensure its inclusion into WTO. In a letter sent to Sergey Kislyakto, Russia's ambassador in Washington, D.C., the congressmen outlined that Russia's requirements are “fundamentally inconsistent with the core provisions of the WTO SPS Agreement.” They further challenged that Russia's standards are used to restrict imports of U.S. agricultural products.

Russia holds strong potential for U.S. pork. In 2008, Russia was the fifth largest market for U.S. pork muscle meat and third for pork variety meat. Since 2008, U.S. pork exports to Russia have dropped 60 percent. Following the Novel H1N1 influenza outbreak in the spring of 2009, the virus' mis-labeling and mis-association with swine, Russia closed its market to U.S. pork for a year. It was among the last countries to re-open its market. Last year the United States exported $204 million of pork to the country.