Brussels will force creation of WTO panel over pigmeat dispute with Russia

By Andrew Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Russia has blocked an inquiry by the WTO into its ban on EU pigmeat
Russia has blocked an inquiry by the WTO into its ban on EU pigmeat

Related tags: African swine fever, European union, Pork

The European Commission will renew its request for a World Trade Organisation (WTO) disputes panel to investigate Russia’s ban on European pigmeat imports later this month, after Moscow blocked an inquiry on Thursday (10 July).

The requests for a WTO panel come after talks between both sides, aimed at ending the import ban, broke down in April without resolution, and signals an escalation of the dispute.

A spokesperson for EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht confirmed that Russia will not be able to block the new request for a panel at the next WTO Disputes Settlement Body (DSB) meeting on 22 July: "Since it will be the second time the EU brings this issue to the DSB, Russia will not be able to object, and a panel will be established,"​ he explained.

Moscow imposed a ban on pork imports from the EU after an outbreak of African swine fever was detected in pigs in Poland and Lithuania in January. Pig producers said the outbreak was contained, but Russia said European pork products posed a health risk – there have been subsequent outbreaks in Latvia.

The Commission’s initial request for an investigative panel was blocked by Moscow on Thursday. In a handwritten note to the DSB, the Russian representative said: "We are confident of the scientific justification behind these measures."

Once the Commission lodges its new request, the panel has 45 days to begin its work. DSB panels can take over a year to reach a conclusion. If the panel finds that Russia’s import ban is not justified, it can order Moscow to lift the restrictions, and authorise retaliatory trade measures if it refuses.

The ban is estimated to have cost EU pigmeat producers exports worth €580 million. In 2013, EU pigmeat exports to Russia earned €1.4bn.

Jan Laustsen, director of trade and marketing at the Danish Food and Agriculture Council, which represents the country’s large pork industry, said both sides needed to enter into technical and trade negotiations. "This ban is a major cause of concern for us and for all European pork producers. We have concentrated very hard on meeting all the standards required for exports to Russia and we can certify that there is no African swine fever in Denmark, at least,"​ said Laustsen said.

"Obviously we would like the case solved as soon as possible – WTO panels are always complicated, they can take some time,"​ he added.

Related topics: Meat

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