The Soviet Union soon will ban the export of consumer goods ranging from caviar to children's shoes and will limit travelers to $160 worth of souvenirs, the official news agency Tass said Sunday.
The radical changes in export and customs regulations evidently are aimed at remedying an extreme shortage of consumer goods in the Soviet Union and assuaging citizens angry over the scarcity of such basic items as soap and windshield wipers.Tass said the restrictions approved by the Council of Ministers will take effect Feb. 1 and last until the end of 1990. It did not give a date for the decision.
The brief announcement limiting exports of consumer goods to 100 rubles, or $160 under the government-decreed exchange rate, per person specifically included tourists. But it did not explain the effect of the ruling on the Soviet Union's attempts to earn scarce hard currency by selling the best caviar, fur hats and coats, vodka and souvenirs in stores that require dollars, pounds or other freely convertible money.
Tass said it will be forbidden to export televisions, refrigerators, freezers, washing and sewing machines, children's clothing and shoes, coffee and caviar.
Coffee is not grown in the Soviet Union, and the import duty is up to $15 a pound.
The announcement also said customs duties will climb to 20 to 100 percent of the retail price on vacuum cleaners, mixers, coffee grinders, irons, radios, cameras, automobile parts and other items. It was not clear if this meant import or export duties.
Export limits were imposed recently in Czechoslovakia and several other East European countries after complaints that tourists from neighboring socialist nations were stripping their stores bare of consumer goods.
The growing practice prompted a Soviet economist, Marina Pavlova-Silvanskaya, to warn in Soviet Culture on Sunday of an impending "trade war" among socialist countries.
Many Russians travel to Eastern Europe on shopping trips, and Pavlova-Silvanskaya herself reminisced about trips to East Germany and Poland. She said her boss insisted that "the program had to include a visit to some institution named for Lenin, lest the Germans or Poles think the citizens of the nation of the Great October Revolution are coming to shop."