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Delegation gives hope to Chinese traders in Russia
By Wang Linyan (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-07-24 06:55

China Thursday urged Russia to protect the interests of Chinese traders after the closure of Moscow's Cherkizovsky Market and the impounding of around $5 billion in goods.

The appeal came one day after 40 Chinese vendors were able to remove impounded stock from the boarded-up site of Russia's largest wholesale market.

"China wants Russia to seek reasonable solutions, within the legal framework of the two countries, and try to reduce Chinese traders' losses," said Vice-Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng via the ministry's website Thursday.

Gao is leading a delegation from the ministries of commerce and foreign affairs, the General Administration of Customs and trade officials from Zhejiang and Fujian.

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The team is representing Chinese traders impacted by the market's sudden closure last month. Many suffered after their stock was locked inside while others have been caught up in visa irregularities.

"Russia is determined to crack down on 'gray customs clearance' and China and Russia has consensus on standardizing trade. We hope Chinese traders abide by Russian laws and change their way of doing business," Gao said in response to reports that raids on the market and its subsequent closure on June 29 were triggered, in part, by the fact that some merchandise may not have been imported through official channels.

Chinese traders have welcomed the delegation, said Yu Hengcan, vice-chairman of the Moscow Association of Overseas Chinese.

However, Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov has said Cherkizovsky Market will not reopen.

"It's not our job to find new trading areas for our Chinese friends," AP quoted him as saying.

Moscow plans to remove all goods from the market by the end of the year, Russian media has reported.

The fact that some Chinese traders were allowed to remove goods from the market on Wednesday signaled progress, said Cai Guiru, from the China General Chamber of Commerce in Russia.

Russia is helping businesspeople transfer goods from the market, said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko.

In order to take possession of their stock, Chinese traders will likely have to prove they imported the goods through the proper channels and that they worked legally at the market, said Ling Ji, deputy director of the Commerce Ministry's Europe department, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The market has been popular with vendors from China, with many Chinese importing Chinese products to sell. Due to Russia's complicated clearance procedures, Russian customs services have allowed "clearance companies" to help with the importation of goods. These firms often did not provide clearance paperwork.

The so-called "gray customs clearance" system has led to imports being viewed as smuggled, said Xu Tao, a scholar at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.