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Russian veterinary service ready to file counterclaim with WTO

April 08, 2014, 21:06 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Russia imposed a ban on imports of pork and live pigs from all countries of the European Union on January 30, 2014 over a threat of African swine fever infection
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© AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda

MOSCOW, April 08. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia’s veterinary and phytosanitary control authority (Rosselkhoznadzor) might file a counterclaim to the World Trade Organization (WTO) concerning the ban on pork imports from Europe, Alexei Alexeyenko, an aide to the Rosselkhoznadzor director, told ITAR-TASS on Tuesday.

“Now we are studying certain procedural aspects to prepare our own claim,” he said, adding that the claim could be filed on behalf of the Russian Federation, not the Customs Union (of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan). “The European Commission’s claim is directed against us as a member of the World Trade Organization, let alone the fact that it is not inclined to recognize de facto the existence of the Customs Union and ask the letter to help settle the dispute,” he stressed.

According to Alexeyenko, the European Commission made no attempts to try to settle the dispute over pork imports in the Customs Union format, despite the fact that Russian had taken this decision jointly with Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Rosselkhoznadzor’s legal arguments at the World Trade Organization are as follows: the current agreements ban pork products imports to the Customs Union form territories infected by African swine fever (ASF). European veterinary certificates on pork products however specify the European Union as a country of origin.

Countries of the European Union, according to Alexeyenko, failed to issue their own safety guarantees on their products to the Customs Union because of the position of the European Commission. “Now, we have been approached by Denmark, earlier similar initiatives came from veterinary services of the Netherlands, France, Italy, and Belgium but the European Commission prohibits them to sign agreements with us,” he noted, adding that this way the European Commission only blocked the possibility of its producers to resume trade in pork products and bars efforts to curb dangerous animal diseases.

On April 8, 2014, the European Union filed a claim with the World Trade Organization over Russia’s ban on pork imports from Europe. This is the European Union’s second suit against Russia. The first one was initiated in 2013 over Russia’s car recycling fee levied on imported vehicles.

Russia imposed a ban on imports of pork and live pigs from all countries of the European Union on January 30, 2014 over a threat of African swine fever infection. On April 7, 2014, Rosselkhoznadzor imposed restrictions on pork products imports from Poland and Lithuania.

According to preliminary statistics of the National Meat Association, Russia’s pork, fat and by-products output in 2013 was 2.8 million tonnes. Pork imports (including from Belarus) stood at 640,000 tonnes. Apart from that, Russian imported 250,000 tonnes of pork fat and 100,000 tonnes of by-products. Following a ban on pork imports from the United States, Europe was the key pork exporter to Russia. In 2013, Russia imported 1.4 billion euro worth of pork, fat and by-products from the European countries, Sergei Yushin, the head of the National Meat Association, told ITAR-TASS.

African Swine Fever (ASF) is a highly contagious notifiable disease of pigs caused by a virus. The disease may occur in acute, sub-acute or chronic forms. The acute form causes severe disease from which the majority of affected pigs die. African Swine Fever can be spread through direct contact with infected pigs, faeces or body fluids; indirect contact via fomites such as equipment, vehicles or people who work with pigs between pig farms with ineffective biosecurity; pigs eating infected pig meat or meat products; biological vectors - ticks of the species Ornithodoros. There is no vaccine against African Swine Fever, which can be stopped from spreading only through culling infected animals. The first African Swine Fever outbreak was registered in South Africa in 1903.

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