Russia to fight EU retaliatory duty bid over pigmeat ban

By Eugene Vorotnikov, in Voronezh, Russia; and Keith Nuthall

- Last updated on GMT

Russian meat producers say they will back the government's opposition to the EU
Russian meat producers say they will back the government's opposition to the EU
The Russian government will fight an application by the European Union (EU) at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for permission to impose retaliatory trade sanctions worth €1.39 billion over Moscow’s ban on EU pork and pigs.

This was imposed by Moscow in January 2014 because of a limited number of African swine fever (ASF) cases. And while Russia technically lifted the ban after the WTO ruled against it last February (2017), EU exporters are still prevented from selling pigmeat products and pigs to Russia by its tit-for-tat food export bans in reaction to the EU sanctioning Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

So, Brussels considers the WTO-censured Russian pigmeat ban is de facto in place – hence the latest claim at the WTO disputes settlement body which was expected to be lodged this week. WTO rules allow retaliatory measures – such as duties – to be imposed by exporting countries whose products are illegally blocked by other WTO members.

Russia is expected to fight the claim. Speaking to GlobalMeatNews​, a spokesman for Russian economic development minister Maxim Oreshkin said the Russian government had disagreed with the WTO decision in the first place, and it now opposes the EU plans to impose retaliatory trade sanctions. He said the WTO had failed to take account that African swine fever has not been stamped out in the EU and that the trade body had ignored “the continued spread of ASF in the EU​”.

The spokesman said the Russian government would consider a legal response to the latest EU actions after the end of the holiday period in Russia, on 9 January, which is linked to the celebration of Eastern Orthodox Christmas in the country.

A statement from the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs – whose membership includes meat producers and processors – indicated it would back government opposition to the EU move, even if it meant Moscow imposing further tit-for-tat sanctions on EU food exports: “If the WTO agrees with the request of the European Union and introduces trade sanctions, Russia will be able to challenge this decision, using no longer veterinary grounds, but rather political tools, related to sanctions and counter-sanctions,​” said the business association. In any case, a spokesperson for the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs argued that a WTO decision may be a long time coming. The WTO should rule later this year on whether the EU can impose these duties – but Russia can be expected to appeal against a ruling it dislikes.

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