Small business associations skeptical about proposal to open their own laboratory for certifying imported clothing, footwear

Representatives of small business associations have expressed skepticism about a proposal that market vendors should open their own laboratory for examining imported clothing and footwear for compliance with the Customs Union's certification rules.

Deputy Trade Minister Iryna Narkevich told reporters on Wednesday that the proposal was put forward at government officials' meeting with leaders of small business associations on July 9. Officials pointed out that this would make certification a cheaper procedure for market vendors, she said.

"The entrepreneurs were offered to unite, open some laboratory that would be accredited and carry out all tests in compliance with the standards currently in force," Ms. Narkevich said.

In an interview with BelaPAN, Vyachaslaw Pilipuk, an activist of a small business association called Perspektyva, commented that although some businesspeople might want to establish such a laboratory in hopes of making a profit, the project held risks that were difficult to assess at the moment. Given the authorities’ negative attitude to market vendors, they might never accredit the laboratory, especially considering that it would be a competitor to the State Standardization Committee, he said.

Even if the laboratory obtains accreditation, the government might intervene in its management to make its services so expensive that market vendors would gain nothing from the project, Mr. Pilupuk said.

Viktar Marhelaw, co-chairman of the National Confederation of Enterprise, noted that it would be quite expensive for business owners to establish their own certification laboratory. “This business would not be very profitable,” he said. “We’ve heard such proposals before, but no one is too enthusiastic about them.”

Thousands of market vendors in Belarus have fiercely opposed the introduction of the new certification rules for imported clothing and footwear within the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.

Approved by the Commission of the Customs Union, the rules prohibit the sale of clothes and footwear without a special label confirming their compliance with the Customs Union's safety standards. The sellers will be required to submit samples of their goods to laboratories for testing and pay the certification costs.

Market vendors staged a one-day nationwide strike on June 27 to protest the rules, saying that the certification procedure would be too costly. Market vendors' stance prompted the government to postpone the introduction of the rules for one year, until July 1, 2014.