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Press review: Sanctions chip away at WTO and Gazprom 'pumps up the volume' through Germany

August 03, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, August 3

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© EPA PHOTO KEYSTONE/Laurent Gillieron

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Washington’s new sanctions limit prospects for cooperation, expert warns

It is difficult to imagine what the Americans could offer Russia in exchange for its cooperation on issues that are important to them, now that US President Trump signed the anti-Russian sanctions package into law, Andrey Sushentsov, Head of the Foreign Policy analytical agency and Program Director of the Valdai Discussion Club, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "I believe (US Secretary of State Rex) Tillerson is not bluffing when he says he disapproves of this sanctions bill. It actually works against America’s interests, restricting Washington’s freedom in international issues. Considering that major progress on Ukraine is practically ruled out, there are no positive measures left that the US could offer the parties to the crisis. The removal of sanctions no longer depends on the White House."

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson earlier told reporters in Washington that neither the US president nor he are particularly enthusiastic about the sanctions package. While admitting that Russian-US relations are currently under "considerable stress," Tillerson, who is scheduled to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Manila later this week, noted that even such moves should not distract both sides from ironing out their differences.

According to the US top diplomat, Syria is the area where the two countries have the greatest potential for cooperation, as both Moscow and Washington see the Islamic State (IS, terror group, outlawed in Russia) and other terrorist organizations as a threat.

According to Sushentsov, the current situation can be described as paradoxical. "After such destructive moves, a fundamental crisis in bilateral relations should follow, but in reality we see something different," he noted. "Everyone seems to be at a loss saying, ‘We did not want that to happen, it just turned out that way’ and tries to find common ground. This is a new phenomenon in the international arena, where sanctions are accompanied by attempts to find a common language on major issues."

 

Kommersant: Japanese premier reshuffles cabinet stacking it with most trusted allies

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is gearing up to replace key members of his Cabinet in a bid to salvage the reputation of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which had recently been shaken by scandals and suffered some painful defeats, especially during the elections to Tokyo’s assembly, Kommersant writes.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida who is to be appointed to the party’s third most important position is coming to the forefront. The major upshot of this reshuffling strategy is reinforcing the party’s leadership with reputable veteran politicians. All that should help Abe stop the party’s declining ratings and get re-elected for the third term at the 2018 election.

Abe’s popularity in the past made it possible for him at some point to launch a number of important reforms, including the program to overhaul the stagnating economy dubbed "Abenomics." In addition, he worked to remove the cap for defense spending, introduce constitutional reforms and initiate the revival of economic ties with Russia.

Moscow would like Shinzo Abe to remain in power for as long as possible, Alexander Panov, former Russian Ambassador to Japan and MGIMO University Professor, told the paper. "Cooperation with Russia is, in many ways, a one-man show. I don’t think that Abe’s successor, whoever he is, will want to continue it," the expert noted. "The window of opportunities in relations with Japan is closing anyway, and the task now is to bring the level of cooperation to the point where it will be difficult to nullify all the achievements once the premier leaves office."

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Trade wars and sanctions chip away at WTO’s foundations

Russian officials are convinced that there is no alternative to the World Trade Organization (WTO), so Moscow is pushing to keep it as the sole playing field for global trade. However, experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta disagree with this view.

The World Trade Organization is playing an increasingly less prominent role in ensuring the balance of world trade, says Sergey Orlov, Professor of the Plekhanov Russian Economic University. "Having spent 18 years trying to join the WTO, Russia has not received any noticeable benefits from that," he noted. According to the expert, the decline in the WTO influence is occurring due the US forcing through its interests in economic relations with China, the decision to impose sanctions specifying restrictive measures against Russia’s partners who are ready to provide financial or technological assistance during the construction of Nord Stream-2 pipeline.

"These moves clearly violate WTO regulations. However, due to the international organization’s ‘mild’ stance, no action on its part will follow, other voicing than statements," Orlov stressed. "The potential trade war between the US and China will further lower the organization’s status quo."

"US leaders are pursuing two clearly defined goals: restoring and consolidating global economic and political domination. However, this is extremely difficult to do, given that the multi-polar world vector in politics, the military sphere and the economy have become a reality and cannot be questioned by anyone,” Orlov told the paper.

Washington's initiative to impose trade restrictions on China is unlikely to be implemented, according to Kirikov Group Managing Partner Daniil Kirikov. “In practice, such measures would lead to huge losses for American companies whose business is connected with China,” he noted. “Considering the fact that anti-Russian sanctions, which drove up costs for US companies, have been recently extended, any simultaneous enactment of countermeasures against China is highly unlikely.”

 

Vedomosti: Gazprom pumps up gas transit to Germany

Russia’s energy giant Gazprom has increased gas transit through the OPAL pipeline, which receives gas from the Nord Stream pipeline in Germany, Vedomosti writes. On August 2, after a six-month ban, the company again gained access to 40% of the pipeline’s capacity. As a result, the pipeline utilization rate has grown by more than one-quarter - from 56 mln to 71.5 mln cubic meters per day, according to data provided by the OPAL operator, Gastransport. However, because of that Russia’s gas transit to Slovakia through Ukraine is likely to be reduced.

According to Gazprom, gas supplies through Ukraine are 20% more expensive than through Nord Stream.

The redistribution of transit gas flows may seem insignificant on a day-to-day schedule, but not in the long term, says Dmitry Marinchenko of Fitch Ratings. Gazprom constantly declares its desire to abandon transit through Ukraine. However, until Nord Stream-2 and Turkish Stream are built, the OPAL capacities are the only option for Gazprom to implement this policy. "I am confident that the company will take full advantage of this opportunity," Marinchenko noted.

An increase in the flow through the OPAL pipeline at the expense of Ukrainian transit was a predictable move, according to Alexey Grivach, Deputy Director of the National Energy Security Foundation. "Transporting gas along the northern route is much more profitable for Gazprom," the expert stressed. "As for the potential reduction of Russian gas transit through Ukraine, even OPAL’s full capacity will not have a dramatic impact on it."

 

Izvestia: Russia surfaces as major seafood exporter

Russia saw a 62-percent jump in the export of shellfish and mollusks, including oysters, in January-May 2017 compared to the same period last year, Izvestia writes citing data provided by the Federal Statistics Service.

Russia mainly exported crabs, shrimps, crayfish and lobsters along with scallops, cuttlefish, oysters and mussels. Crabs and shrimps were exported to South Korea, the Netherlands and Japan, while scallops were shipped to China, France and the Netherlands. Mollusks, including oysters, were supplied to Kazakhstan, Belarus and Moldova.

According to Dmitry Vostrikov, Executive Director of the Rusprodsoyuz Association, after the onset of the import substitution program, Russia began developing the aquaculture segment, the cultivation of aquatic organisms in natural and man-made reservoirs.

"The government-backed program entitled "Development of the Fishery Complex" provides for an increase in the production of aquaculture products to 315,500 tonnes per year by 2020. New projects have been launched in the north-western region and Crimea," he explained.

Meanwhile, a representative from Crimean Seafood, which specializes in shrimp and oyster cultivation, noted that the demand for them in Russia is growing steadily, so new farms for their breeding have appeared in Crimea and in the Azov and Black Sea basins. In addition to that, oysters are caught in Russia’s Far East.

 

TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews

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