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EU plans Russia sanctions talks with Latin America countries

August 12, 2014, 12:02 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Since Russia banned food imports from the EU and the US last week in a response to sanctions, Moscow has been negotiating with Latin American countries for alternative supplies

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MOSCOW, August 12. /ITAR-TASS/. The EU plans to hold talks with countries such as Brazil and Chile to dissuade them from stepping in to replace Europe’s banned agricultural exports to Russia, senior officials said on Monday, the Financial Times reported.

Since Russia banned food imports from the EU and the US last week in a response to sanctions, Moscow has been negotiating with Latin American countries for alternative supplies. Several countries and trade groups in South America said that Moscow’s measures could offer them a lucrative windfall.

Brazil has authorized about 90 new meat plants to immediately start exporting chicken, beef and pork to Russia, and Chile is tipped as a leading beneficiary of Russia’s embargo on European fish.

Seneri Paludo, Brazil’s Secretary for Agricultural Policy, said Russia’s embargo could also allow Brazil to export more corn and soy beans to the country. “Russia has the potential to be a large consumer of agricultural commodities, not just meat,” he said.

Such excitement in the agricultural powerhouses of Latin America has triggered concern in Brussels. “We will be talking to the countries that would be potentially replacing our exports to indicate that we would expect them not to profit unfairly from the current situation,” said one senior EU official at a briefing on the situation in Ukraine.

The official said he understood that individual companies could sign new contracts with Russia but it would “be difficult to justify” countries pursuing diplomatic initiatives to fill the gap left by the EU, the US, Norway and Australia.

Another EU official said the talks would be “political”, seeking to map out the importance of a united international front on Ukraine, rather than raising specific legal objections to food exports to Russia.

The EU, as the world’s largest trade bloc, can exercise influence through its negotiations with Latin America’s Mercosur trade grouping, although these 15-year-old talks on a trade accord are mired in difficulties over market access.

Most attention on potential winners from Europe’s trade war with Russia has focused on Latin America but Belarus and Turkey are also expected to profit.

While senior European diplomats are due to protest to any country seeking to fill the gap left by EU exports, an official from the EU’s agricultural commission was more sanguine. He explained that any country diverting exports to Russia would very probably create a new market for the EU.

The announcement of the diplomatic protests came as the EU unveiled its first measures to support farmers hit by the Russian ban - propping up peach and nectarine farmers, whose business had already been crippled by bad weather. The EU said that it would increase the amount of the fruit available for free distribution and would make more funds available for promotion.

While Russia’s ban has exacerbated the difficulties for peach farmers in Spain, Greece and Italy, the EU had been planning to act on peaches and nectarines before Moscow’s embargo.

A more comprehensive EU response to the food ban is expected to be drawn up at a meeting of agricultural experts from all 28 EU countries in Brussels on Thursday.

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