Imposed after the discovery of African Swine Fever (ASF) cases in pigs within Lithuania and Poland in January, the EU argues the Russian response is an overreaction that is unjustified scientifically, a legal prerequisite for such bans under WTO agreements.
The panel was authorised by the WTO disputes settlement body (DSB) after the EU made a second request for its establishment. Such initiatives cannot be blocked if a complaining country repeats a request for a panel. Should it rule Russia has broken WTO legislation, and Moscow ignores a ruling, the WTO could authorise retaliatory trade restrictions by the EU.
Speaking to the DSB meeting in Geneva, an EU diplomat said: "Regrettably, the EU finds itself with no choice but to make a second request for the establishment of a panel in this dispute, which is of very serious concern to the EU, both from a legal, but also from an economic perspective."
The diplomat added that the EU had "demonstrated to Russia that all necessary measures to contain a further spread of ASF were put in place immediately and, that, there is no scientific reason to ban imports from unaffected areas of the EU". However, noted the official, "Russia continuously refuses to recognise the EU regionalisation measures and continues banning imports from the whole EU territory."
The EU said the panel claim would also cover recent additional restrictions imposed by Russia on Latvia, where there has been a fresh outbreak of ASF, including a temporary ban of transiting live pigs through Latvia to Russia.
The Russian representative at the meeting rejected the EU’s position, saying: "With recurring African Swine fever outbreaks in… the EU (now also in Latvia), evidence of the ineffectiveness of European efforts to prevent spread of the disease is quite clear." Indeed, he added, ASF had "high health and economic risks which cannot be resolved by forcing or speeding up the legal procedure" of loosening bans. The diplomat added that Moscow was "confident" it had not broken WTO rules, and that the dispute can only "be effectively resolved through expert consultations and arrangements".