The WTO has not confirmed a date. But an official close to the WTO, who chose to remain anonymous, has confirmed a long-awaited decision will be made on Russia’s 2014 trade ban on European pork.
Its verdict will not be made public as the WTO is expected to tell Russia and the EU privately of its decision on Thursday 7 April. Nonetheless, the verdict on a complaint raised by the EU against Russia, which claims Vladimir Putin’s government restrictions on pork are inconsistent with WTO policies, is a significant step forward.
The EU states Russia has ignored the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, which states no country should impose bans on WTO members that would constitute “arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination”.
What happens after a WTO dispute verdict?
“Whatever panel ruling emerges can be subject to appeal. When the appeals process ends, and if the ruling is favourable to the EU, Russia would negotiate with the EU on a deadline for compliance. Only if Russia refuses to comply, or if the EU believes Russia has not complied fully, would we begin to start talking about the sanctions and or compensation phase of the dispute,” according to a spokesman from the WTO.
Europe angry with Russia
In January 2014, Russia completely shut off its market to European exports of live pigs and pork, owing to fears of an African swine fever (ASF) outbreak in eastern Europe. This left EU pork exporters with a massive oversupply of pork, and bereft of a once-key market.
Before Russia closed the door on EU pork products, the value of exports into Russia exceeded €1.4bn ($1.55bn). Since the embargo, there have been numerous attempts to unlock the lucrative Russian market, but efforts so far have fallen on deaf ears.
In February, GlobalMeatNews reported that EU farming body Copa-Cogeca had written to the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker beseeching him to “re-establish trade” with the Russian Federation.
Russia causing ‘difficulties’
Europe is angry that Russia has refused to accept imports from ASF-free countries, and claims Russia’s decision goes against scientific evidence.
“The ban on pigmeat and products to Russia has caused significant difficulties for the sector. IMTA [the International Meat Trade Association] looks forward to the WTO ruling and hopes that it will lead to a resumption of trade as soon as possible,” said Liz Murphy, CEO of the IMTA ahead of the WTO ruling this week.