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China, Russia Discuss 'Wenzhou Shoe Incident'

Maxim Golikov, acting Russian trade representative in China, said on Tuesday in Beijing that the trade ministries of the two countries are working together to resolve issues stemming from the confiscation on March 12 of a large quantity of Chinese-made shoes in Russia.

He said that the matter is complex and unlikely to be resolved in the near term. However, Russia hopes that the incident will not have a negative impact on trade between the two nations.

Russian police raided a warehouse near Moscow on March 12 and confiscated more than 80 million yuan (US$9.7 million) worth of shoes from Wenzhou footwear exporters. The police detained the owners of the goods the following day.

Golikov said the goods were confiscated because they entered Russia through the illegal "gray customs clearance" process.

Gray customs clearance is a regular practice among Chinese companies, which use intermediaries to transport bulk packages of commodities in planes and container trucks. Although Russia's Customs Commission recognizes the practice, consignors of goods entering Russia through this process are given no official customs declaration documents.

As trade has expanded rapidly, China and Russia have each set up task forces to rectify the gray customs clearance system.

Golikov said that some Russian customs clearance agents are using improper means to handle imports. His government has taken action against gray customs clearance and increased cooperation with China.

Meanwhile, China and Russia have agreed that, until the issue is resolved, it is not acceptable for either side to take unilateral action such as seizing goods.

Natalia Narochnitskaya, vice chair of the international affairs committee of Russia's State Duma, the lower house of parliament, said during her ongoing visit here that Russia has no special policies or arrangements for China, and the Wenzhou shoe incident was not politically motivated.

(Xinhua News Agency March 23, 2005)

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