Russia slowed moves on a sweeping proposal for anti-American economic retaliation unveiled by lawmakers last week, even as the U.S. plans another round of sanctions over the Kremlin’s backing of the Syrian government.
“We will organize meetings with the business community, with companies,” Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the lower house of parliament, told reporters Monday, announcing the initial vote on the plan would be delayed until May 15. He said the proposal will also be sent to the government and Kremlin for their views, as well as those of “the expert community.”
“The decisions that will be made will be very responsible,” he said, adding that goods would be banned only if there are local alternatives of equivalent quality.
His tone differed sharply from comments made Friday, when the plan was first unveiled and legislators vowed to push it through the approval process this week. The draft plan would make it possible to restrict imports of American farm, pharmaceutical and technology products, as well as Russian cooperation with the U.S. in aviation, space and nuclear energy. It also allowed hikes in fees for air travel over Russia, restrictions on visas for U.S. professionals and violations of U.S.-owned trademarks. Final decisions would be made by presidential order.
The restrictions come in response to the latest U.S. sanctions on Russia, imposed April 6, which hit business tycoons and major companies, including its biggest aluminum producer. U.S. officials said over the weekend more restrictions are likely to come soon to punish Russia for its support of the Syrian government’s chemical weapons program.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov Monday denounced the U.S. limits as unfair competition.
The U.S. is Russia’s sixth-largest trading partner. Imports from the U.S. totaled $12.5 billion last year, according to Russian Economy Ministry data, with cars, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment among the top items. Exports to the U.S. were $10.6 billion.