As NATO warns of a Russian troop build-up on the border with Ukraine, fears are growing of an invasion. Kiev is stepping up activity to recapture Donetsk, a rebel stronghold, hit for the first time by an airstrike.
On the sanctions front, Russia retaliated yesterday against recent US and EU measures, slapping one-year bans and limits on food and agricultural imports from countries involved. Russian President Vladimir Putin has introduced an embargo on agricultural products from the European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada and some other countries.
Here’s how Australia reported the news about the agricultural sanctions.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the embargo, introduced yesterday, would affect imports of beef, pork, fruit and vegetable produce, poultry, fish, cheese, milk and dairy products from the EU, US, Australia, Canada and Norway.
The ban comes after a decree on Wednesday by President Vladimir Putin on countermeasures to Western sanctions.
Mr Medvedev said Russia was also considering banning Western carriers from flying over Russia on flights to and from Asia.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the embargo was “disappointing” but assured Australian agricultural producers the government would do “everything in its power” to minimise the effect through new trade agreements and the opening up of alternative markets for their produce…
Some less principled countries could seize on this as an opportunity to break the embargo by increasing their exports to Russia, which in turn should raise questions about the ethics of buying food from them, and their implicit support for the Russian government’s actions in the Ukraine.
Read NZ could gain from Russia’s Western food ban in today’s New Zealand Herald as the country lines itself up to provide a boost to its Russian exports.
In a later report Prime Minister John Key seemed to be relaxed about the prospect of doing additional trade with Russia. Saying “at this stage I suspect we would sell if demand was there…and these are private sector companies so we couldn’t actually stop them from selling [their products] there if they want to.” source
…New Zealand was not included in the ban, and Russia has signalled it will increase cheese imports from New Zealand to make up some of the shortfall…
Sarah Salmond, head of international trade at law firm Russell McVeagh, said that under current law, New Zealand could impose trade sanctions against another country only on the recommendation of the United Nations.
However, the UN could not recommend sanctions against Russia because this required the unanimous support of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, which included Russia, she said.
Legislation has been put before Parliament to allow New Zealand to unilaterally impose sanctions, but it is in limbo.
Salmond said New Zealand exported products to “all sorts of dodgy countries“, but companies needed to be careful when doing so.
“The main issue is a practical one,” she said.
“While it’s completely legal to export to these countries under New Zealand law, if it’s illegal to do business with them in another country you could have difficulty getting paid.
“For instance, you can’t use US dollars to do business in Iran because you wouldn’t get paid.”
Cheese in exchange for a Seat on UN Security Council?
What has gone largely un-noticed by the NZ press is that New Zealand will be keen to gather support for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, of which Russia is a voting member.
New Zealand has long been lobbying hard for a 2 year stint on the council and has set up a campaign website for that purpose. Its compeditors in the “Western European and others” group are Spain and Turkey, the latter is a major exporter to Russia. Hard cheese
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council are China, France, USA, UK and Russia.
If you object to New Zealand’s unprincipled greed and don’t want it to use the Ukrainian war as a trade opportunity, our advice is to stop buying their produce.
Contact your local parliamentarians and ask for trade restrictions to be placed on countries that break the embargo. No one should be allowed to profit from human suffering, not least New Zealand which has enough of its own.