UPDATE 1-WTO backs EU in row over Russian import ban on pigs, pork

(Adds comment from EU, Russia, context)

Aug 19 A World Trade Organization
(WTO) panel on Friday backed the European Union (EU) in a
two-year dispute over Russia’s ban on pig and pork imports from
the bloc.

Russia imposed the ban after a handful of cases of African
swine fever in some EU areas in 2014, invoking sanitary and
phytosanitary measures allowed under WTO rules.

A panel of arbitrators found that Russia did not meet
international standards for such a ban which was discriminatory,
violating WTO rules.

But regardless of the WTO’s decision, the pork trade
continues to be restricted by the ban Moscow imposed on most
Western food imports in August 2014 after Western sanctions were
launched over its role in the Ukraine crisis, the EU said in a
statement.

Each side has 60 days in which to appeal the findings. EU
pork exports to Russia were 1.4 billion euros ($1.6 billion) in
2013, a quarter of total EU pork exports at the time.

Russian food safety watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor, which imposed
the ban in 2014, expects Moscow to appeal the decision, its head
Sergei Dankvert told Reuters on Friday, adding that the Economy
Ministry was in charge of relations with the WTO and would
decide on whether to file the appeal.

The Russian Economy ministry was not available for immediate
comment.

The European Union delegation to Russia said in a statement
that the ruling sent a “strong signal” to Russia that a risk
assessment should be based on scientific evidence.

“If no appeal is filed within that deadline, the report will
be adopted and Russia will be bound to comply with the
recommendation,” the EU said. The bloc said it has one of the
world’s most efficient animal health and food safety systems.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Polina Devitt; additional
reporting by Elena Fabrichnaya; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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