Following a few outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF) in eastern Europe, Moscow banned imports of pigs and pork from the EU in 2014. Since then, a long-running dispute contested between Russia and the EU has played out.
Russia’s loss of the appeal, at the hands of the WTO appellate body on 23 February 2017, means Moscow will have to bring its rules in line with WTO standards. If the country fails to do so, Brussels could impose sanctions on Russia to compensate for the loss of a market that, before the ban, generated €1.4bn for the EU economy.
‘Politically motivated ban’
“Russia should withdraw its unjustified measures and allow EU companies to resume normal business with their Russian partners,” the EU said in a press statement.
“For most of the products dealt with in this case, trade continues to be restricted by a politically motivated ban Russia imposed on EU agri-food products in August 2014.”
Brussels added Russia’s “protectionist policies” affected a wide range of economic sectors.
The latest WTO ruling sided with the EU on a number of contested areas and even reversed an earlier ruling on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures in favour of the EU.
Brussels said the ruling sent a clear signal to Russia and all trading nations on obligations to respect Article 6 of the WTO’s rule on SPS measures. This stipulates WTO members should adapt regional SPS measures for low and disease-free regions.
The WTO ruling simply means that Russia’s use of SPS measures to ban all EU pork imports went against trading rules, as only a few EU countries reported ASF outbreaks.
The Russia-EU trade dispute hinged on disagreement over SPS measures. In 2014 Russia banned all imports of live pigs and pork products from the EU, due to outbreaks of ASF, citing dangers to animal health. The EU contested Russia’s imposed SPS measures and the three-and-a-half-year trade dispute began.
In August 2016, a WTO adjudication panel ruled against Russia’s ban, stating it flouted international trading rules. The Russian Federation told the WTO on 23 September that it would appeal the ruling, while the EU announced on 28 September that it would counter-appeal Russia’s move.