ANALYSIS - The Russian authorities are clamping down on US meat products because of concerns over the use of ractopamine in the animals as a growth promoter.
Now any imports of meat have to be certified by a government veterinary inspector before they can go on the Russian market.
If the meat products are not accompanied by the appropriate certificate, they will only be admitted onto the market after laboratory tests.
The lab testing system will be in place during the transmission period during which the Russian Veterinary authority Rosselkhoznador said that the Veterinary Services of exporting countries must establish systems of laboratory checks for the presence of ractopamine in imported products and support each product consignment meant for the Russian Market and other CU countries with a laboratory act that testifies the absence of ractopamine in it.
However, now the US trade representative, Ron Kirk, has attacked Russia for breaking the obligations of the World Trade Organisation and has called on Russia to restore market access.
He said: "The United States calls on Russia to suspend these new measures and restore market access for US beef and pork products. The United States sought, and Russia committed as part of its WTO accession package, to ensure that it adhere rigorously to WTO requirements and that it would use international standards unless it had a risk assessment to justify use of a more stringent standard.
"Especially in light of its commitment to use international standards, this is an important opportunity for Russia to demonstrate that it takes its WTO commitments seriously."
However, now Rosselkhoznadzor has said it was surprised that some analysts had linked the introduction of intensified control by the Rosselkhoznadzor for ractopamine in imported meat as retaliation for the "Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act" - a bipartisan bill "to impose visa and banking restrictions on Russian officials implicated in human rights abuses" - adopted in the USA on 6 December.
Rosselkhoznadzor said it had declared the use of ractopamine prohibited in products destined for the Russian market more than a year ago and that the appropriate official notifications had been sent to the Heads of the Veterinary Services of the USA, Canada, Brazil and Mexico well in advance.
The Deputy Head of Rosselkhoznador, Nicolai Vlasov, said that he hoped that the US and other countries that used ractopamine would use the option of attaching a veterinary certificate saying that the drug had not been used to imported meat products as either laboratory testing in the exporting country or in Russia would increase costs and delay the imports.
Mr Vlasov attacked the newspaper reports linking the call for certification or testing to the Magnitsky Rule.
"Most surprising is the fact that some of the media, in spite of our explanations, continue to maintain that some of the restrictions have allegedly been introduced by Rosselkhoznadzor in response to the decision of the US Congress to pass the Magnitsky act.
"I repeat once again that this is, to say, is not true."
The move has also appeared to have caused tension not only between the two government but also with the US Meat Export Federation, who have been dragged into the accusations.
However, the USMEF appears to have been distancing itself from the row and Mr Vlasov published a letter from USMEF vice president Ted Livli in which he said that the USMEF did not want a difference of opinion on the issue to change the commitment to having an open and constructive working relationship with the Russian veterinary authorities.
This week the USMEF said: "We are confident that a science-based solution to the disagreement over testing and certification can be found quickly so that exports of US beef and pork to Russia can resume in the near future."
Nevertheless, there is still concern that the excessive paperwork and the challenge to US exports could be significant because US beef companies shipped 121.7 million pounds of beef to Russia this year up to September, a rise of 5.3 per cent on last year and representing 6.6 per cent of total US beef exports.
In the pork market Russia is rising as a destination with a 41.1 per cent growth in the market up to September.
The concern must be that the dispute does not degenerate into a full-scale trade war as has been seen over the beef hormone issue with the EU and is threatening with the EU over the use of ractopamine.