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WASHINGTON, January 31 (RIA Novosti) – The United States is “deeply concerned” by Russia’s decision this week to ban US beef and pork imports containing the feed additive ractopamine, a move Washington believes could undermine bilateral ties, a spokeswoman for the White House’s chief trade adviser said Thursday.
“These actions threaten to undermine our bilateral trade relationship,” Andrea Mead, a spokeswoman for the office of US Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk, told RIA Novosti on Thursday.
Russia’s federal food safety agency announced Wednesday that it will institute a temporary ban on US beef and pork imports beginning Feb. 11, saying its American counterpart, the US Food Safety and Inspection Service, failed to guarantee that these shipments would be free of the additive, which promotes growth in livestock.
The Russian agency had warned the United States, Canada, Mexico and Brazil that their meat imports could be halted should the shipments contain ractopamine.
The US government and meat industry lobby groups in the United States insist that ractopamine is safe at acceptable levels established by the international community, including the United Nations’ main food safety body.
“To date, the United States has not seen any scientific evidence that would justify Russia’s measures on ractopamine residues,” Mead told RIA Novosti.
She said the ban may put Russia in violation of its World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations and that the United States may seek recourse through the global trade body.
“We are currently exploring all options, including tools available through the World Trade Organization, regarding shipments of beef and pork products to Russia,” Mead said.
The dispute comes at a time of increasingly strained relations between the United States and Russia over human rights and international adoptions.
Washington angered the Russian government last year by introducing the so-called Magnitsky Act, a law imposing sanctions against Russian officials suspected of human rights abuses. The law was named after Sergei Magnitsky, a whistleblowing lawyer who died in a Moscow jail in 2009.
Russia responded by banning US citizens from adopting Russian children and prohibiting politically active Russian nongovernmental organizations from accepting financing from the United States.
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The growing outright rivalry between the United States and China gives Russia more foreign policy weight, enabling it to assume the role of a balancer. So far it has been doing so rather skillfully. Today it may participate in a joint naval exercise with China that Beijing positions as outwardly anti-American. But tomorrow it can team up with the naval forces of the Old World.