11 Jun 2010 17:16

Belarus asks CIS tribunal to suspend duties on Russian petroleum products

MINSK. June 11 (Interfax) - Belarus has asked the CIS Economic Court to impose a temporary ban on customs duties being charged on Russian petroleum products until the court has reached a final verdict on the matter, the Belarusian Justice Ministry says on its website.

"Belarus, exercising its right under Paragraph 40 of the CIS Economic Court Regulations, has petitioned the court to place an injunction in the form of a ban on the Russian Federation levying customs duty on petroleum products shipped from Russia to Belarus until the court reaches a final decision on this issue," the ministry says.

This would "enable cooperation ties between enterprises to be preserved, and increase the competitive standing of Russian and Belarusian enterprises in the world market" until the verdict has been reached, it says.

The Justice Ministry thinks that charging the duty inflicts considerable economic damage not just on Belarusian enterprises but on Russian enterprises also, and conflicts with several international legal documents.

Belarus believes Russia has violated a free trade agreement of November 13, 1992, and agreement on the Customs Union between Russia and Belarus of January 6, 1995 and a protocol on free trade without exceptions and restrictions of January 6, 1995.

Belarus also believes a treaty of February 26, 1999 on the Customs Union and Single Economic Space, the treaty on the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Community of October 10, 2000 and treaty on the establishment of the single customs territory and formation of the Customs Union of October 6, 2007 have also been violated.

The ministry says duties on oil products supplied by Russia to Belarus have never been charged in the history of trade between the two countries.

Belarus filed a lawsuit with the CIS Economic Court on March 26, contesting export duties on oil products supplied to Belarus that were imposed by Russia on January 1, 2010. Russia has to abolish export duties on oil products shipped to Belarus, Belarusian Justice Minister Viktro Golovanov told reporters in Minsk on April 2. The two countries have an agreement on the supply of oil and oil products to which was appended a protocol in January, Golovanov said. The agreement lays out standards for shipments of crude oil to Belarus with a reduced coefficient, and the protocol amended terms for oil shipments, he said. "But there is nothing in the document about oil products," Golovanov said.

Belarus' position is that if the agreement establishes only what oil products are but does not regulate shipment terms, then the export duty should be zero, he said. Russia's decision to levy duties is out of line with the basic agreement between the two countries, he said. Also, Russia's constitution mandates that international agreements take precedence over national law.