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Three-day talks between Rospotrebnadzor representatives and a delegation of the Georgian Agriculture Ministry began in Moscow on Monday on return of Georgian products to the Russian market. The guests are planned to meet with the federal agency's head, chief sanitary inspector Gennady Onishchenko. According to the participants, the talks are of a technical character. During the meetings, they will discuss issues related to quality of Georgian products and forms to control it. A date may be agreed on for arrival of Russian specialists in Georgia to inspect the technologies of wine and mineral water production.
Georgia waited for the day since 2006, when the federal agency for consumer rights protection and public health control (Rospotrebnadzor) stated that the quality of drinks and farm products imported from the country did not meet the Russian standards, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The unilateral break of trade relations coincided with a spiral of political tension between Moscow and Tbilisi.
Tbilisi leaders refused to accept the Russian side’s official version about the ban, stating that Moscow tried to economically strangle freedom-loving pro-West Georgia. "It will fail. We will find new markets. Western friends will help us. Our businessmen will not leave our peasants in trouble," Mikheil Saakashvill said at the time.
However, little of the president-declared programme was implemented, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes. The Georgian government's main hopes -- to find a market to be an alternative to the Russian one -- have not come true. Losses due to the halt of supplies of vegetables, fruit, mineral water and soft drinks were minimized largely with increased exports to Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Turkey. But the wine situation remained uneasy. Attempts to conclude agreements for mass Georgian wine supplies failed, though the promotion was declared to be a state objective. It is explained by the wine market conservatism and wine consumption traditions.
At present, when power has changed in Georgia, signs of warming are seen in bilateral relations. So, it is highly probable that the embargo will be lifted. But the Russian market changed in the past six-seven years. Tbilisi, according to specialists, at first can hope to return no more than a 2-3-percent segment of the Russian wine market. And this is the most optimistic forecast.
At the meetings in the Rospotrebnadzor agency, the Georgian side will raise not only the wine problem, but a wider range of trade issues, the newspaper notes. What products will be approved to be presented at the Russian market will be known after the talks. For the present, it is known that Moscow keeps to a differential approach to Georgian wines. The market may be opened only for bottled products, but closed for wine materials.