The EU has requested the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to rule over a dispute concerning the Russian ban on imports of pigs and their genetic material, fresh pork and certain other pig products from the EU, purportedly because of a limited number of cases of African Swine Fever (ASF) in certain areas of Lithuania and Poland, close to the border with Belarus.

The EU believes that the Russian import restrictions are incompatible with the WTO. At the EU’s request, and as part of the initial stages of the dispute, consultations were held on 30 April and 1 May 2014 between Russia and the EU. However, their outcome did not lead to a lifting of the measures or any proper justification for them to be maintained. Unfortunately, subsequent bilateral discussions also did not bring any progress.

“Russia’s import restrictions on European pork are clearly disproportionate, discriminatory and not based on science,” said EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. “As this goes against international trade rules, Europe has no choice but to request the establishment of a panel at the WTO.

“The EU immediately put in place measures to contain the spread of the disease. Thus, EU products from the non-affected areas are perfectly safe. Despite our efforts over the last five months and the numerous bilateral contacts ewe had with Russia, there is no sign that Russia will allow trade to resume from the unaffected areas in the EU,” said EU Commissioner for health Tonio Borg.

“The Russian import restrictions on pig meat from the EU have already had a severe impact on the EU pig sector, requiring crisis assistance measures. During the 5 months the ban has now been in place, European pig meat producers have lost exports worth some €580 million,” said EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloş.

Upon joining the WTO in 2012, Russia committed to ensure that its measures protecting animal life and health are based on science, not more trade restrictive than necessary and applied without discrimination to its different partners and domestic producers.

The trade ban has exposed the EU farming sector to significant losses. In 2013, in the year preceding the Russian restrictions, the value of EU pork exports to Russia reached €1.4 billion, which was around 25% of the whole EU exports. Russia is the EU’s third largest trading partner and the EU is Russia’s second largest export destination for agricultural products. Overall, in 2013, the EU exported €123 billion of goods to Russia and imported €232 billion worth. While Russian exports to the EU are mainly raw materials (80%), EU exports to Russia are mostly vehicles, medicines, machinery and transport equipment, but also agricultural products.