In March 2002, two trade problems in the bilateral relationship between Russia and the United States received unprecedented attention from politicians, journalists and analysts in the two countries: 1. Russian steel export to the United States was affected by safeguard measures on steel import introduced by President George W. Bush. 2. Russian veterinary authorities imposed a temporary import ban on American poultry.
The trade problems quickly rose to a political level in the bilateral relationship, reflecting a lack of bilateral trade regulation. The press linked the two problems and called them a trade war on steel and poultry.
In my thesis, I use these two trade problems as cases to analyse interaction between Russian state and business actors when they manage trade issues. I analyse state-business interaction from 1998 to late 2002 according to a network framework. In this framework, networks between state and business actors have six dimensions: actors, functions, structure, institutionalisation, power relations, and strategies of the public administration. The steel and poultry networks are first described and analysed through these six dimensions. Afterwards, they are discussed according to four models for state-business interaction that have recurred in the research debate: clans, loose networking patterns, state capture and elite exchange. Lastly, I explore factors that may influence network formation and change. Two factors are explored explicitly, as independent variables: the bilateral relations between Russia and the United States, and sector structure in the involved industries.
In the research debate about interest mediation in Russia, the pattern of relations between state and business actors is a source of dispute. The question of which side has more autonomy and influence on the other is also a contested issue. In the steel case, I find that state and business actors have close and frequent contact, and that membership on the business side is restricted. In the poultry case, the state has substantial influence on access channels from the business side to state agencies. The business side, in return, acquires substantial influence on the domestic market. In both cases, the bilateral relationship influences developments in the networks. I also conclude that in the Russian system for interest mediation, networks are stable. This is an insiders’ system, where access to the state is for the privileged.