Customs Union - difficulties for importers

With the establishment of the Customs Union, some importers had trouble with the import of goods to the territory of the Russian Federation. Before the New Year there were a lot of discussions on the emergence of the new customs tariffs, and nobody paid attention to the expanded list of licensed goods.


Since January 1, the agreement of country-members of the Customs Union on the common rules of licensing in the sphere of foreign trade and the list of goods which are to be imported under a license entered into force. According to them, it is required to have a license for all types of alcohol, although earlier in the RF such a requirement was applied only to vodka, tequila, and some other hard liquor.

Importers claim that they were not timely informed of the innovations, and the Ministry of Industry and Trade started to accept applications for registration of licenses only after Christmas holidays. As a result, in the first days of the new year the imports were suspended. On January 19, 2010 the Federal Customs Service has informed of "conditional clearance" of alcoholic beverages to the territory of Russia "to reduce the time of customs clearance" in case the importers provide a document certifying the appeal for a license is filed with the Ministry of Industry and Trade. However, “conditionally cleared” goods could not be sold until the completion of customs clearance procedure, i.e., license acquisition. Overall, the market is in need of tens of thousands of licenses. On January 25, the Ministry of Industry and Trade started to issue nonrecurrent licenses to importers of alcohol.

Similar problems were faced in January by importers of vitamins. Earlier, Russian suppliers could import them on the basis of permission letters of the Federal Service for Surveillance in Healthcare and Social Development (Roszdravnadzor). Now, in addition to the permit of that Service, one should obtain a license from the Ministry of Industry and Trade, like for other drugs.

The beginning of the Customs Union operation has created difficulties to the suppliers of laptops, cell phones and some accessories, such as bluetooth-headsets. Under the rules of the Customs Union, the companies, importing the devices with the ability to encrypt, shoule undergo the procedure of noification, i.e., to notify the government agency responsible for the security thereof. Officially, such agency was not identified. Only on January 21, the Federal Customs Service has reported that the contact agency is the Center for Licensing, Certification and Protection of the National Security Information under the Federal Security Service of Russia (FSB).

Cellular communications providers are forced to postpone the construction of the third generation networks in Russia. Due to creation of the Customs Union, they were faced with the issue of import of equipment for the construction of 3G networks. For the import of base stations, it is required to obtain a license for the import of cryptographic devices, which is issued by the Federal Security Service, and the license for import of radio-electronic means, to be issued by the Ministry of Industry and Trade. The companies point out that the failure to supply the equipment cannot simply extend the term of networks 3G delivery, but can threaten to revocate the licenses of the operators.

According to the estimates of the RAS Institute of Economic Forecasting, the benefits of the Customs Union will amount to USD 400 billion. However, meanwhile the establishment of the Customs Union has caused a number of trade conflicts - not only in the import of wine and vitamins, but also in the sphere of export duties on oil: currently oil from Russia to Belarus is delivered without a contract, since the parties cannot agree on the terms of supply.

Customs Union is an entirely new structure and failures are inevitable at the beginning of its operation.

N.P. Volovik, Head of External Economic Activity Laboratory