Brussels, 8 April 2014
EU challenges Russia in the WTO over pork import ban
The EU today launched a case in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against the Russian ban on imports of pigs, fresh pork and certain pig products from the EU.
Russia closed its market to the EU – cutting off almost 25% of all EU exports – at the end of January 2014. It based its decision on four isolated cases of African swine fever (ASF) detected in wild boar at the Lithuanian and Polish borders with Belarus.
This trade ban has exposed the EU farming sector to significant losses. Bilateral discussions with Moscow have not brought any results thus far. Given that there seems to be no solution forthcoming, the EU has decided to resort to the WTO's dispute settlement procedures by requesting formal consultations with Russia.
“Russia's blanket ban on European pork is clearly disproportionate and goes against WTO rules. This was a very minor case of a few infected wild boars at the borders with Belarus which was immediately contained by the relevant European authorities. After weeks of talks with our Russian counterparts to try to resolve this issue, we see absolutely no progress. Europe will defend its pork producers and in this respect has no choice anymore but to pursue this case at the WTO." said EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht.
EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg said: "Despite intensive negotiations, our Russian partners continue to reject our regionalisation proposal which would allow all pig exports, except from the affected area. The Commission has put in place a series of control measures to contain the ASF virus – which most probably comes from Russia itself - , which comply with WTO principles. However, Russia continues to apply a blanket ban on EU pork exports. This disproportionate ban is having a major financial impact on our European pig industry and cannot go unchallenged."
Upon joining the WTO in 2012, Russia committed to make sure that its measures protecting animal life and health are based on science, not more trade restrictive than necessary and applied without discrimination to its different partners and domestic producers.
However, Russia accepts for instance imports from Belarus and, until recently, Ukraine, despite notified cases of African swine fever in these countries. Also, despite the numerous outbreaks of the disease that have occurred on its own territory, Russia did not close its entire market to all domestic products. Therefore, by refusing imports from EU regions unaffected by the disease, Russia would seem to be applying double standards, treating EU products differently from other trading partners and from those produced domestically.
In requesting consultations, the EU formally initiates a WTO dispute. Consultations give the EU and Russia the opportunity to discuss the matter and to find a satisfactory solution without resorting to litigation. If consultations do not reach a satisfactory solution within 60 days, the EU may request the WTO to set up a panel to rule on the legality of Russia’s measures.
Trade facts and figures
In 2013, the value of EU pork exports to Russia reached €1.4 billion, which was around 25% of the whole EU exports. The ban has a severe impact on the EU pig industry with a decrease of price and oversupply of pork on the EU market. Russia is the EU's third largest trading partner and the EU is Russia's biggest export market. In 2013, the EU exported €123 billion of goods to Russia and imported €232 billion worth. While Russian exports to the EU are mainly raw materials (80%), EU exports to Russia are mostly vehicles, medicines, machinery and transport equipment, but also agricultural products.
African swine fever
The virus of African swine fever is a lethal, infectious disease of pigs which is harmless to humans or other animals. The virus strain found in those four wild boars matches with the virus strain prevailing in Russia. The Russian import ban covering unaffected areas in the EU is in stark contrast to the Russian domestic situation. Since 2007, Russia notified around 600 cases of African swine fever in wild boar and close to 400 outbreaks in domestic holdings. Against this backdrop, there is little doubt that the disease spread from Russia to Belarus and from Belarus to the EU. The EU calls upon Russia to urgently increase its domestic efforts to eradicate and control ASF and lift its unjustified trade ban against unaffected areas in the EU.
WTO dispute settlement:
Relations with Russia:
EU pork market:
EU control measures for African swine fever: