The European Union says it has appealed to the World Trade Organisation over Russia’s ban of pork exports from the 28-nation bloc.
“Russia’s blanket ban on European pork is clearly disproportionate and goes against WTO rules,” EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Europe will defend its pork producers and in this respect, has no choice any more but to pursue this case at the WTO,” he added.
Russia in late January slapped a ban all pork imports from the EU after cases of African swine fever (ASF) were detected in wild boar in Lithuania.
The disease, which is harmless to humans but lethal to pigs and has no known cure, has also been detected in wild boar in Poland.
De Gucht stressed that Lithuania and Poland were hit with “a very minor case of a few infected wild boars at the borders with Belarus”, pointing out that the ASF infections had been immediately contained by the relevant European authorities.
The EU had urged Moscow to reopen its export market to pigs from the entire bloc besides the affected areas, to no avail, EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg said in the statement.
“This disproportionate ban is having a major financial impact on our European pig industry and cannot go unchallenged,” he said.
Moscow’s ban is cutting off almost a quarter of all pork exports from the bloc, which last year raked in around 1.4 billion euros ($A2.09 billion) in pig sales to Russia.
The EU pointed out that Russia had not banned imports from Belarus or, until recently, Ukraine, despite cases of ASF there.
It also stressed there had been outbreaks of ASF inside Russia, but that Moscow had not closed “the entire Russian market to all domestic products”, blasting the country for showing “double-standards”.
In fact, the EU said, “there is little doubt that the disease spread from Russia to Belarus and from Belarus to the EU”.
The bloc said it was calling on “Russia to urgently increase its domestic efforts to eradicate and control ASF and lift its unjustified trade ban against unaffected areas in the EU”.
In the meanwhile, Brussels had decided “to resort to the WTO’s dispute settlement procedures by requesting formal consultations with Russia”, it said.
WTO consultations generally last 60 days. If no solution is found by the end of that period, the parties can request the creation of a panel to rule on whether or not the Russian ban is legal under the global trade body’s rules.