A representative of the Eurasian Economic Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan urged to develop partnership with South Africa.

Tatyana Valovaya, Russia’s Minister for Integration and Macroeconomics of the Eurasian Economic Commission, a supranational regulatory body of the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space, said in an interview with TASS on Wednesday, “We have presented the Eurasian Economic Union, which will be launched on January 1, 2015, and the emerging opportunities to expand trade and economic cooperation of South Africa with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and further with Armenia.”

The minister stressed that even without regard to Western sanctions against Russia, Eurasian Economic Union member states should diversify their import sources.

“Everybody says we are highly dependent on Europe, and we should expand the geography of trade. South Africa has great potential in such marketable products as fish, seafood, vegetables and fruit,” Valovaya said, noting that to enter the market, imported goods should comply with phytosanitary requirements of the Eurasian Economic Union.
“Business should understand which issues fall under the cognizance of the Eurasian Economic Commission, the Eurasian Economic Union and national governments,” she said, adding that South Africa’s representatives of small and medium-sized businesses had already shown keen interest in the commission’s regulatory role.

“I am very glad about that, as it offers additional advantages to that business, significantly easing customs formalities,” she said.

The minister noted also that Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus were ready to import South African citrus fruit banned by the European Union.

Last month, South Africa referred the European Union to the World Trade Organization over Brussels’ threat to refuse entry to its fruit exports because of citrus fungal disease black spot. In a statement, Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies called the threat “protectionist,” saying there was no scientific consensus to support the EU’s claim that fruit from South Africa with the fungal disease could infect European orchards.

“We also have phytosanitary rules, but South Africa can certainly enter the Russian market,” Valovaya said. “We will definitely not resort to any kind of veiled protectionism. They have good prospects. No lemons are growing here.”
Food imports from South Africa are also believed to be realistic for Russia as the country introduced a set of agricultural sanctions against the West. The ban announced at the beginning of August bars imports of meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables from the United States, the 28-nation European Union, Canada, Australia and Norway for one year in retaliation for sanctions imposed by those nations on Russia over events in Ukraine.

Since then, Russia has been in talks with Latin and South American countries, the Middle East and Asia to replace prohibited produce.

Combined with other import bans imposed earlier this year, the latest trade measures covered Western imports worth $9.1 billion in 2013, according to Russian customs data.