( RIA Novosti ) - Poland could block Russia's entry to the global trade organization if Moscow fails to lift the 2005 embargo on imports of agricultural products, a deputy agriculture minister said on Monday.
" Poland would like Russia to be a WTO member. But if Russia fails to change its approach to Poland [in terms of veterinary control], then we will have to speak out against Russia's membership in the organization," Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski told a news conference in Moscow adding that Poland was reluctant to block Russia's membership.
Ardanowski said Russia said its refusal to lift the Polish meat embargo was down to the failure by Poland to meet Russia's sanitary standards.
"The world is trying to introduce uniform standards. And Polish products conform to these demands, which have nothing to do with the norms the Russian side is citing," he said.
The deputy minister said Warsaw believes there are no grounds for the Russian embargo to be continued. He said Russian and EU experts had made inspections at Polish meat plants.
"European experts said there were small breaches, while the Russian side said the violations were very serious, which meant Russian representatives doubted [the effectiveness of] all European Union food control systems," he said.
Russia imposed a temporary ban on meat products and fruit and vegetable deliveries from Poland in November 2005 saying Polish companies re-exported the products from third countries representing a threat to sanitary standards.
Demanding that Russia lift the embargo, Poland blocked talks on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Russia and the EU. The current agreement expires in December.
Ardanowski said Poland believed there was a link between the Russian embargo and the veto by Poland over the partnership agreement talks, as most EU members, he said, back Warsaw in the meat dispute.
Russia's veterinary watchdog said Monday Russia is ready to discuss lifting its two-year ban on Polish meat imports if meat producers undergo new checks.
"The problem is quite simple. We proposed holding inspections and resolving all issues long ago. We are ready to conduct inspections together with European Union representatives, but we have yet to be admitted," Alexei Alexeyenko, the Russian regulator's press secretary, told RIA Novosti.
"We can't open our borders to unchecked enterprises," he said.
According to Polish data, before the embargo, the country's annual earnings from meat exports to Russia were about $560 million, or 5% of total exports.