By Tom Miles
GENEVA Feb 19 Global road trucking body IRU
said on Wednesday it warned Russia to drop "illegal" frontier
inspections and charges or face possible exclusion from an
international customs system that facilitates cross-border
Russia stepped up inspections, causing long queues at its
borders, last July after the country's Customs Service began to
enforce a new national system, levying charges dozens of times
higher than previously under the U.N.-backed system of "TIR"
The IRU, the International Road Transport Union, wrote to
President Vladimir Putin, warning that if the inspections were
not halted, it would recommend its members vote to suspend
Russia from TIR.
That would mean Russian exporters facing similar problems on
"There could be a huge impact on trade flows," IRU
spokeswoman in Geneva Juliette Ebele told Reuters. "It's going
to be a complete mess for transport operators and trade, and the
Russian economy, and for imports like food and medicine."
Under TIR, started in 1959 and now operating in 60 countries
around the world, goods-carrying road vehicles are inspected by
local customs officials at departure and closed with a
The value of the goods is transmitted to customs in the
country of destination, which is supposed to allow TIR trucks
through borders rapidly to their point of destination, where the
cargo can be inspected again.
The new Russian system, ruled illegal by the Supreme
Arbitration Court in Moscow and affecting imports worth $110
billion in 2013, has multiplied the cost of transport operations
- including transit shipments - involving Russia by up to 83
times, the IRU says.
It says that 40 percent of Russia's overall imports, mainly
consumer goods, are affected, pushing up their cost. Trade
analysts in Geneva, home to the World Trade Organization, say
this inevitably favours Russian producers.
If Russia were to be pushed out of the TIR system, the
competitiveness of its own exports to Europe and beyond could be
sharply reduced, producing what IRU Secretary-General Umberto de
Pretto said would be "a lose-lose scenario."
(Reporting by Tom Miles, writing by Robert Evans; Editing by