EU - The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has declared that the Russian ban on the imports of pig and pork products from the EU is illegal and in breach of WTO rules and should be lifted.
Russia originally placed the import ban on the EU in 2014 following concerns over the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF), saying that the EU was not doing enough to stop the spread.
At the time, ASF outbreaks were only being reported in a few countries, close to the border with Belarus.
The WTO Panel has therefore found that the EU-wide import ban violates the rules of the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement).
Individual bans placed on imports from Poland, Lithuania, and Estonia also received the same criticism from the panel.
In a press release, the European Commission noted that this ruling confirms that the measures taken by Russia against the EU have little to do with any real sanitary or health risks. EU products are safe and there is thus no need for any country to maintain unjustified import restrictions.
Although most of the products involved in this trade ban still cannot be exported to Russia due to Russia's politically motivated trade ban on EU agriculture products, some products such as lard, may now be able to be traded again.
French agriculture minister, Stéphane Le Foll, noted that the WTO ruling now means that France should be able to restore its trade relations with Russia. This represents a significant economic opportunity for France.
Copa and Cogeca also welcomed the WTO declaration. Copa and Cogeca Secretary-General, Pekka Pesonen, said: “We welcome the fact that the WTO has confirmed that the Russian import ban on live pigs, fresh pork and other pig products from the whole of the EU is illegal in light of international trade rules. Since only a limited number of cases of African Swine Fever have emerged in areas close to the border with Belarus, the Panel acknowledged that the ban is disproportionate, protectionist and not based on international standards and violates rules of the WTO Agreement on Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. This is good news”.
“But unfortunately the Russian authorities are likely to appeal against the ruling in the next 60 days which means that farmers may not see the benefits of it before 2018. Russia used to import 24 per cent of EU’s exports with an average annual value of about €1.4 billion before the SPS restrictions.”
Top image via Shutterstock