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EU-Russia arbitration in pork dispute unlikely to be completed in due time - WTO

It is rather normal in arbitration cases, a source in the World Trade Organization told TASS

GENEVA, January 8. /TASS/. It is unlikely the deadline of 60 days will be met for the WTO arbitration over the European Union’s complaint against Russia in the pork dispute, which should normally be completed within 60 days after the date of expiry for the reasonable period of time fixed for December 6, 2017, a source in the World Trade Organization told TASS on Monday.

"The next step in the process is for the WTO to contact the original panelists in the dispute (DS475) and see if they are available for arbitration duties. If the three original panelists are available, they will proceed with the arbitration; if not, a replacement(s) will need to be found, after which the arbitration will proceed," a representative of the trade bloc’s press service said.

Under the WTO rules, "the arbitration should normally be completed within 60 days after the date of expiry for the reasonable period of time, which in this case was fixed for 6 December 2017," the source said. However, "given the time needed for confirming the availability of the panelists and the time needed to review whether the level of retaliation requested by the EU (1.4 billion euros per year) is justified, it is unlikely this deadline will be met, which is rather normal in arbitration cases," he added.

On January 3, WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) held a special meeting at the request of the European Union. A source familiar with the matter told TASS that "it concerned the EU's request to retaliate against Russia in the dispute Russia - Pigs (EU), under Article 22.2 of the Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU), on the basis of Russia's alleged non-compliance with the DSB's recommendations and rulings at the expiry of the reasonable period of time (RPT)."

Meanwhile, the European Union "can at any time ask the arbitrator to suspend their work," the source in the WTO told TASS. "The EU in fact said it was asking for arbitration because Russia did not want to negotiate a so-called ‘sequencing agreement’ under which a panel would first determine whether Russia complied with the ruling before proceeding with arbitration," he explained, adding that "should the two sides reach a sequencing agreement, the EU would likely ask that the arbitrators suspend their work until the compliance panel has issued its ruling."

Russia imposed a ban on imports of live pigs and pig-breeding products in early 2014 over an outbreak of African swine fever in Lithuania. In August 2016, DSB ruled that Russia’s ban was non-compliant with the WTO rules. Russia challenged this ruling but its motion was dismissed in February 2017. On December 6, 2017, Russia’s veterinary watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor said it removed the ban on EU pork imports at the WTO request, though the ban on imports of such products would stay in force as these products fall under Russia’s food embargo.

In July 2014, the European Union and the United States imposed sanctions against Russia over the developments in neighboring Ukraine. The sanctions have been regularly extended and expanded ever since. On August 7, 2014, Russia imposed a package of counter measures against the European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada and Norway. Thus, it banned imports of fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat products from these countries for a period of one year. The ban was subsequently extended as well.

Russia’s Economic Development Ministry said earlier on Monday that the EU’s call for compensation amounting to 1.39 bln euros per year over Russia’s ban on pork imports is groundless since the country has met the WTO’s demands and lifted the veterinarian ban imposed over the outbreaks of African swine fever.