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Brussels, 31 October 2014
EU requests WTO consultations with Russia over excessive import duties
The EU requested today consultations with Russia in respect of import duties for paper products, refrigerators and palm oil. The EU takes this first step in the dispute settlement procedure in response to the violation by Russia of its obligations under the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Upon joining the WTO, Russia committed to keep its import duties below the limits expressed in the accession documents. However, it has continued taxing a number of products across various sectors more heavily than agreed. This is still the case today for certain products of interest for the EU.
Russia diverges from what was decided at the time it was joining the WTO in two ways: either it applies a higher duty rate, e. g. 15% instead of 5%, or it fixes a minimum amount that needs to be paid even if not justified by the agreed duty rate expressed in a percentage of the product value.
Those higher duties have a clear negative impact on European exports of paper products, refrigerators and palm oil that are worth approximately €600 million a year. The non-respect of tariff commitments raises also a systemic concern as it constitutes a violation of one of the key WTO principles.
The EU has raised this issue with Russia both in bilateral talks and in WTO committees but to no avail. Therefore, to ensure respect of WTO rules, the EU wants now to engage with the Russian Government in formal consultations. If the consultations are not successful, after 60 days the EU can ask the WTO to establish a panel that will rule on the case.
Russia is the EU's third most important trading partner. EU exports to Russia amount to €120 billion a year and are dominated by machinery, transport equipment, chemicals, medicines and agricultural products. However, the unilateral measures adopted by Russia have had negative impact on EU-Russia trade in the recent period. The case referred today to the WTO is the fourth since Russia joined the Organisation in 2012.
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