MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia and the United States will hold talks in mid-January to solve a dispute over U.S. poultry imports, a top Russian official said on Sunday, adding that the stance of U.S. administration was inspiring optimism.
Russia effectively blocked U.S. poultry imports beginning January 1 with a new law prohibiting chlorine as an anti-microbial treatment in poultry production.
Washington said the measure would have a “devastating impact” on the U.S. poultry industry and trade, and raise the costs of poultry products for Russian consumers.
Russia’s chief sanitary official Gennady Onishchenko said he hoped a compromise would be found at talks in Moscow, which he agreed to hold after telephone talks with James Miller, the USDA’s undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services.
“An American delegation will arrive here on January 17 to solve the problem on an expert level,” he told Ekho Moskvy radio station.
”A one hour and a half conversation with Mr Miller has inspired me with emotional optimism.
“We have tried to find common points during this hour and a half. It is a special thing of today’s U.S. administration. Before it was just ‘No’ and full stop,” Onishchenko said.
Russia and the United States have announced a resetting of political relations after U.S. President Barack Obama took office.
The two nations have yet to overcome all obstacles to reaching a key deal on reducing Cold War arsenals of nuclear weapons, which will be seen as real evidence of a new era in relations.
Analysts have said large U.S. poultry imports to Russia have often become hostage of chilly political relations between the two countries.
The United States supplies more than one-sixth of Russian poultry consumption, or 600,000 metric tons, Onishchenko said, adding that Washington knew about Russian plans to proceed with new regulations since 1994.
“What is chlorine? Chlorine is a poisonous substance for combats,” he said.
The United States believes Russia’s new regulation is unjustified because of “overwhelming scientific evidence” showing chlorine is safe and effective disinfectant for use in poultry.
Onishchenko said the January 17 talks would involve shipments of U.S. poultry, which is already en route to Russian ports on the Baltic Sea.
“If it is a reasonable amount -- not accounting to semi-annual or annual stockpiles -- then of course (we will clear their imports),” Onishchenko said.
U.S. officials have said there might be some 30,000 metric tons of poultry already en route to Russia.
Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov, Editing by Maureen Bavdek