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In the first quarter of 2002, the foreign trade turnover made US $ 34.6 bln., what is by 6 % below the level observed in the respective period of the preceding year (US $ 36.8 bln.). Due to a gradual recovery of the world business situation, first of all, in the USA, in March of 2002, as compared with the two preceding months, there was observed a significant improvement in the dynamics of prices of staple Russias goods exported in countries outside the former Soviet Union. In the first two months of this year, the oil prices were rather volatile. However, in March the upward trend of oil prices became stable. Among key factors accounting for a rise in oil prices were OPEC plans to retain restrictions on oil sales in the second quarter at the level set for the preceding quarter, and the fact that other oil extracting countries (including Russia) supported this decision, falling volumes of Iraq oil, and information that stocks of crude oil and oil products in the USA sharply decreased. Besides, the deteriorating political situation in the Middle East also affected oil prices. According to the RF Ministry for Economic Development, in March of 2002, the average BRENT price made US $ 23.per barrel, URALS US $ 22.0 per barrel.

As compared to January through February, in March of 2002 the situation on the world market of ferrous metals was characterized by a certain increase in business activity as the general economic situation improved. In March of 2002, prices of major steel products somewhat increased in comparison with the figures registered in February and made: reinforcing steel - US $ 190 to 220 per metric ton, commercial steel US $ 215 to 250 per metric ton, hot rolled steel in rolls US $ 210 to 225 per metric ton, cold rolled steel in rolls US $ 250 to 280 per metric ton.

The market of non-ferrous metals also experiences an upturn. The aluminum prices of the London Metal Exchange made US $ 1403 per metric ton (a 2.6 % increase in comparison with the February figures), copper prices were up by 2.8 per cent at US $ 1605 per metric ton, nickel prices were at US $ 6503 per metric ton (a 8.4 % growth).

FIGURE 1.

Main indices of Russias foreign trade (as USD bln.) -1997 . 1998 . 1999 . 2000 . 2001 . 2002 .

Balance Export Import Source: RF Goskomstat TABLE 1.

The average monthly world prices in February of the respective year 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 Oil (Brent), USD / metric ton 139 139,8 94,5 99,4 195,9 185,9 175,Natural gas, USD / thous. m3 - 66,8 77,5 75,7 101,0 185,7 107,Gasoline, USD / metric ton 215,5 230,4 166,8 188,3 333,5 318,0 279,Copper, USD / metric ton 2584,7 2424,8 1772 1477,1 1779,1 1780,3 Aluminum, USD / metric ton 1600,8 1635,5 1441,3 1251,1 1584,2 1511,2 1403,Nickel, USD / metric ton 7955,7 7929,5 5380 4934,5 10269,6 6140,3 6503,Source: calculated in accordance to the data presented by London Metal Exchange (UK) Due to a considerable improvement of dynamics of world prices in March of 2002, the Russias exports has reached the maximum value in the last six months. Although there was registered a 4.2 % decline in Sep Sep Sep Sep Sep Jule Jule Jule Jule Jule May May May May May Jan.

Jan.

Jan.

Jan.

Jan.

Jan.

Nov.

Nov.

Nov.

Nov.

Nov.

March March March March March March comparison to the respective indicator of the preceding year, it increased by almost 25 % as compared with the figures observed in the preceding month.

Although in March the rates of growth in imports somewhat decelerated, they remained rather high.

Imports from countries outside CIS grew at an especially fast rate (by 20.8 % in comparison with March of 2001).

The European Union is planning to grant Russia the market economy status. This decision will require some modification of the EU legislation related to protective measures, what may take several months. The status of market economy gives Russian companies considerable privileges as concerns anti-dumping procedures. Russian enterprises will be able to claim the review of 14 anti-dumping restrictions in Europe for the total amount of about US $ 240 mil. a year. This decision concerns first of all such industries as metallurgy, chemistry, production of fertilizers.

Since June 1, 2002, the government will increase the rate of export duty on crude oil and oil products extracted from bituminous deposits from US $ 9.2 to US $ 20.7 per metric ton. Oil duties are reviewed every two months and depend on the world prices. In March through April, the average Urals price made US $ 22.96 per barrel (in January through February it was at US $ 18.61).

On May 28, there was signed a resolution abolishing export duties on articles made of ferrous metals across all groups. Previously, the duties made 3 to 5 % for respective groups. The annual loss of the budget is estimated to be about US $ 120 mil. However, this measure will help the Russias metallurgy to support volumes of export sales retaining their competitive price advantage. The forex denominated proceeds of metallurgy made almost 15 % of the total amount of Russias exports in 2001.

The RF government has announced the abolition of 15 % import special duties on Hungarian frozen vegetables, juices, soups, and broth, as well as rape seed and mustard oils. This decision is related to the fact that the Hungarian Republic has abolished the measures infringing on the economic interests of the RF and Russias enterprises. Special duties on Hungarian products were introduced in last July as a counter measure against the measures Hungary undertook to restrict exports of Russian goods in this country. For instance, the Hungarys government introduced extra duties on Russia-made nitrogenous fertilizers and started procedures aimed at the introduction of quotation of Russias exports of cement, rolled steel, and wood fiber tiles.

In March of 2002, the amount of Russias trade vis--vis CIS countries made US $ 2.33 bln. The exports remained practically at the last year level (they grew by only 1.6 % and made US $ 1.36 bln.), while imports decreased more significantly by 17.9 % as compared with figures registered in March of 2001 and made US $ 0.97 bln. As concerns imports from CIS, the deliveries of ferrous metals and pipes declined most considerably (two and four times respectively as compared with the levels registered in the preceding year).

As concerns oil and natural gas export to CIS countries, it decreased in terms of both volumes and the average export prices of these products. It shall be also mentioned that export oil prices also decreased by about 30 %; however, in contradistinction to natural gas and oil products, deliveries of crude oil grew by more than 60 %.

In May, a summit of the Eurasian Economic Community indicated new avenues of development of integration processes among CIS members. The heads of participating states paid special attention to the problems relating to the coordination of measures as concerns the accession of a EvrAzES member country to WTO and the formation of the common customs tariff. This international organization (Eurasian Economic Community, or EvrAzES) was founded in 2000 by the Presidents of Russia, Belorussia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, and Tadzhikistan on the base of the Customs Union created four years earlier. The Community sees its priorities in a more close cooperation of the member countries in the trade, economic, social, humanitarian, and legal spheres. In order to facilitate these processes, the Community plans to introduce common customs regulations and reporting procedures, all-embracing registration and transit rules, create joint crossing points on the external borders and ensure the economic security of EvrAzES member countries.

The summit also approved an agreement prohibiting the introduction of anti-dumping measures vis--vis member countries. Besides, Ukraine was granted the status of observer in the Eurasian Economic Community, which comprises Russia, Belarus, Tadzhikistan, Kirghizia, and Kazakhstan. As a next step, Ukraine may become an associated member of the Union.

Ukraine may benefit from the economic integration in the framework of EvrAzES not only in terms of a hike in tax revenues from deliveries of Russian hydrocarbon products, but also in terms of more close economic ties in the framework of CIS, what Ukrain has tried to avoid so far.

As concerns the customs regulation, on April 29, 2002, the RF State Customs Committee effected the Letter On control over the customs value of goods classified by the Customs Schedule of External Economic Activities of Russia in the commodity groups 07, 08 and imported from CIS countries. The letter stipulates that the heads of customs should take operative decisions in relation to the customs value in maximally short terms in connection with the seasonal intensification of trade with agricultural produce imported from CIS countries, and not delay clearance of goods.

In order to operatively control seasonal fruit and vegetable imports from CIS countries, the customs departments responsible for the issues of customs value should periodically monitor the level of wholesale and retail prices of perishable goods (fruits, vegetables) in regions and use this information to control the customs value in the framework of methods set by the legislation.

N. Volovik, N. Leonova

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