India, Russia move to break middlemen's role in trade

Tuesday, 23 September 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Russia is sending a trade delegation to New Delhi in October to streamline imports from India and to take bilateral trade out of the hands of middlemen, officials said.

After Russia embraced free market economy, middlemen have been making merry, cornering business and earning lucrative commissions while virtually deciding the source of imports.

"The Russians have finally realised it is their consumers who have to pay the price for the middlemen's avarice," the official said.

India and Russia, which have strong bilateral ties and consider each other strategic partners, have not seen commensurate growth in trade largely due to the involvement of middlemen who put their interests above everything else.

India says two-way trade has been stagnant for the last few years at around $1.5 billion. According to Russian authorities, however, trade has been growing after a drop in the late 1990s, and was pegged at $2.3 billion last year.

Indian officials attribute the difference to Russian import of Indian goods, particularly meat, tea and tobacco, through third countries.

"While we do not include these in our bilateral trade figures, Russia apparently does. Hence the anomaly," a senior Indian official told IANS.

Russia does not import meat directly from India because it does not meet Russian standards. But the same meat is imported freely from countries in the Middle East, one of the main importers of Indian meat.

The same goes for tobacco and tea. Russia has reduced or stopped direct import of Indian tobacco, but it imports the commodity through multinational companies.

In the case of tea, Russia has cut direct imports from India, but it imports tea through London tea auction.

Issues like these will be addressed by the Russian delegation in meetings with Indian officials here next month.

Source: IANS
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