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Trade

EU prepares WTO action over Russia's ban on pork from the bloc

In another twist of strained relations between the West and Russia, The EU executive has said it's about to take legal action against Moscow in a pork ban dispute. It's prevented EU producers to export pig meat.

EU trade spokesman John Clancy announced Thursday the 28-member bloc was preparing to refer Russia to the World Trade Organization (WTO) over a ban Russia had imposed on pork imports from the EU, following a few recorded cases of African swine fever there.

Moscow blocked all shipments of live pigs and pork products in January after two cases of the disease had been discovered in Lithuania, involving wild boar. The variety of swine fever in question is deadly for pigs, but not dangerous for humans.

The European Union had reacted by introducing tighter controls and increasing financial support for affected areas, while simultaneously trying to persuade Russia to drop its blanket ban, with exporters from Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands said to suffer most from the punitive measure.

No quick fix

Germany the world’s second biggest pork exporter

All in all, the EU exports 700,000 tons of pig meat to Russia each year, accounting for 25 percent of the bloc's pork exports. According to the Commission, the sales are worth 1.4 billion euros ($1.9 billion).

"It has become clear that despite our best efforts, the EU has exhausted all possible diplomatic avenues to resolve this disproportionate ban by Russia," Clancy said in a statement in justifying future WTO action.

Russia for its part said it feared African swine fever could spread further to the East, insisting the entire EU territory be quarantined until it was free from the disease. Russian officials added that with domestic consumers in mind, lifting the ban would be "utterly irresponsible."

hg/dr (Reuters, AFP)

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