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Lithuania: Food Import Duties Sticking Point With IMF

Washington, 6 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - Differences between the Lithuanian government and the International Monetary Fund on a suggested reduction of import duties on food are, according to IMF officials, the only "sticking point left" in the IMF's regular review of Vilnius' three-year loan of around $188 million.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius held a final meeting with an IMF review team in Vilnius Monday and told reporters afterward that his new cabinet is reluctant to carry out a provision of the agreement with the IMF to cut average food import duties from 27 percent to 20 percent by March 1 and to approximately 10 percent a year later.

"I think a solution will be found but this does not mean we will change our stance," he said. Lithuania favors the liberalization of trade, said the Prime Minister, but the unilateral lowering of duties is unacceptable.

IMF officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL that they do not view the disagreement as serious and are "looking forward to resolving it."

The review is required for the next disbursement of the loan, of which around $58 million remains to be drawn between now and October. The review is also part of a required quarterly program outlined in a "letter of intent" required from all IMF borrowers.