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Tatar-Bashkir Report: August 7, 2002

7 August 2002
President Comments On WTO Accession
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said on 6 August that the prospects of Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization are realistic, Interfax reported the same day. Shaimiev added that, "We are creating a market economy [in Russia], and the process of entering the WTO is inevitable for [Russia], since without this, [Russia's] integration in the world economy is impossible."

Shaimiev noted that the major problem that Russian industries will face upon accession to the WTO is the competitiveness of domestically produced goods on world markets. "During WTO negotiations, [Russia] must defend the interests of its producers to give them sufficient time to get the domestic economy up to world levels," Shaimiev said. He used China as an example for how Russia should negotiate, saying that China persisted on its own preconditions for WTO entry during its negotiations with the global trade body.

Commenting on the reportedly grim prospects for Russia's agriculture industry upon WTO accession, Shaimiev said that, "Regardless of whether [Russia] becomes a member [of the WTO] or not, it won't radically affect the situation in the [Russian] agriculture industry." He said that, "Even now, while [Russia] is not a WTO member, agricultural production is unprofitable, while at the same time, [Russia] is importing millions of tons of meat, dried milk, and other agricultural products." The Tatar president added that in this sense, the Russian agriculture industry is fully dependent on state support of farmers, effective land reform to increase production, and the ability to enter world markets.

Government Announces Poor Industrial Performance
A 6 August meeting of Tatar government officials said the republic's current economic performance is unsatisfactory, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 7 August. Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov said at the meeting that Tatarstan's industrial capacity is currently operating at only 80 percent. The prime minister said that decreased profits at industrial companies have also led to lower salaries. In addition, Minnikhanov said, the wage arrears in the republic have increased to 962 million rubles ($31 million) from 761 million rubles earlier this year.

The government proposed several measures to improve industrial performance, including expanding the range of products available on domestic markets, using energy-saving technologies, and initiating bankruptcy proceedings against loss-making companies.

The general director of the KamAZ automotive concern, Sergei Kogogin, agreed with Minnikhanov's appraisal and said that his own company planned to increase efficiency by allowing small businesses to take over the production of certain low-profit assembly parts.

President Shaimiev said in this closing remarks that the meeting was a success, adding that it was a positive development to allow entrepreneurs and producers to discuss their points of view since "problems often emerge because of a lack of understanding.... Now, competition for market share is beginning in Russia. It's important for [Tatar companies] to maintain their positions."

Migration Service Predicts Drastic Increase In Russia's Chinese Population
Officials from the Russian Migration Service have said that by 2010, Russia could have as many as 8 million to 10 million Chinese residents, which would make Chinese Russia's second-largest ethnic group, moving ahead of Tatars, reported on 6 August. The agency also reported that Chinese citizens have been increasing business activities in the eastern part of Russia.

Kuwait Comes To Republic Looking To Fill Nursing Shortage
A delegation from the Kuwaiti Health Ministry met with Tatar Deputy Health Minister Anas Gilmanov and also visited the Kazan Medical College on 6 August to discuss cooperation in the health-care sector, RFE/RL Kazan's bureau reported on 7 August. The Kuwaiti delegation said that their country's hospitals are facing a nursing shortage and thus, would like to invite nurses from the republic help in this sphere. The sides agreed that Kuwait would invite only nurses who speak English in order to avoid any possible language issues. The two parties plan to sign a cooperation protocol in February 2003 at which time contracts will be offered to nurses from the republic.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Customs Service Seizes Islamist Literature
The Bashkir branch of the Volga Federal District Customs Service confiscated 120,000 items containing so-called radical Islamist literature, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 August. The customs declarations claimed that the items were free books to be distributed to Muslim youth under the aegis of a charity campaign. The agency cited Vladimir Yegorov, deputy head of Volga Federal District Customs Service, as saying that there has been an increase in attempts to import such literature into Russian regions in 2002.

Ufa Proposes Natural-Resources Treaty With Moscow
The Bashkir government officials in charge of natural resources and oil extraction met on 6 August to discuss possible amendments to the republic's laws on natural resources in connection with republican constitutional reform and federal tax reform, Bashinform reported on 7 August. The meeting adopted a resolution calling on Moscow and Ufa to sign a treaty on the bilateral regulation of the use of natural resources.

Austrian Fund Pledges Technical Support For Republican Hospitals
A Bashkir delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Fidus Yamaltdinov met with a delegation from the Austrian International Fund for the Support of Humanitarian Programs on 5 August, Bashkir state radio reported on 7 August. The Austrian side reportedly stated its willingness to supply Bashkir hospitals with high-tech equipment beginning early next year.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi