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Russian live animal ban breaches WTO rules

Russia‘s ban on live animal imports from the European Union, effective from Tuesday in response to the Schmallenberg animal virus, is in breach of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, the bloc‘s executive warned. Russia is due to become a member of the WTO in August, after its accession was agreed in December after 18 years of negotiations. Moscow is the last major economy to join the Geneva-based body, taking the step more than 10 years after China.

 EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and EU Health Commissioner John Dalli have said in a joint statement that “The European Commission considers that Russia is sending a very negative signal to its international trade partners on its seriousness towards the WTO – given its pending accession to the international trade body,” The Schmallenberg virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and midges. Cases have been reported in Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Spain.

The virus leads to congenital malformations, mainly in sheep and less often in cattle and goats. Pigs are not affected. In January, EU experts found that “it is unlikely that this virus can cause disease in humans, but it cannot be completely excluded at this stage.” Last week, the EU executive said 14 non-EU members – Ukraine; Mexico; Egypt; Lebanon; Algeria; Japan; Morocco; Argentina; USA; Canada; Brazil; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Belarus and Kazakhstan – had adopted “precautionary measures” in response to the virus outbreak. They include restrictions on genetic material or a requirement from the EU side that the animals they export are healthy. 

Russia is the only country that has resorted to an outright import ban on all EU pigs, cattle, sheep and goats. De Gucht and Dalli has protested  that “The trade in these live animals from the EU has in no way endangered the health of citizens of the Russian Federation and these restrictions are therefore not based upon scientific fact, necessity or proportionality in any way,”. EU live animal exports to Russia amounted to 188 million Euros last year, of which 75 million Euros are affected by the ban that entered into force Tuesday, the commission said.

Source: Europe Online Magazine