The EU has lodged a formal complaint with the WTO seeking to undo a Russian ban on pork imports from the bloc. Moscow's embargo, triggered by an outbreak of African swine fever, was disproportionate, the EU claims.
Brussels' decision to seek a ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Moscow's pork import ban against the EU came after direct talks on the issue had failed in April and May, the EU Commission said Monday.
Moscow's embargo was discriminatory and disproportionate, EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said, given that only two cases of African swine fever had so far been reported in EU member states.
Russia had banned imports of live pigs and pork from the EU in January after two cases of African swine fever were found among wild boar in Poland and Lithuania. The disease can be deadly for domestic pigs.
According to the EU Commission, Russia imported live pigs and pork worth a total of 1.4 billion euros ($1.91 billion) from the EU in 2013 - that is about a quarter of all EU pork exports last year. Brussels said its sector was losing 4 million euros a day because of the ban.
Trade war heating up
Critics say Moscow's quality concerns are a fig leaf for a political move against ex-communist EU members such as Poland and Lithuania. Both are key players in the European pork sector dominated by Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. Moscow's ally Belarus is not targeted even though that ex-Soviet republic has also seen cases of African swine fever.
Since joining the WTO in 2012, Russia has also slapped bans on dairy products, chocolates and wine from various ex-communist countries, including non-EU members Moldova and Ukraine, as well as Poland and Lithuania.
Brussels has already asked the WTO to rule on Russia's "recycling fee" imposed on cars, trucks, buses and other vehicles, which applies only to imports not domestic-made models.
The WTO offers its member economies a level playing field. However, its disputes settlement process can last for years, amid appeals, counter-appeals and compliance assessments. Its panels of independent trade and legal experts can authorize retaliatory trade measures by the wronged party.
uhe/nk (dpa, Reuters)