On February 23, the WTO’s Appellate Body confirmed that Russia’s import bans on live pigs, pork and other pig products from the EU is illegal under international trade rules. The ruling concerns a ban imposed by Russia in January 2014 because of the outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) in EU areas close to the border with Belarus.
In an earlier ruling of August 19, 2016, a WTO panel acknowledged that Russia's refusal to accept imports of certain EU products and to adapt EU-Russia health import certificates accordingly amounts to an EU-wide import ban. The Russian measure is not based on the relevant international standards to prevent African swine fever outbreaks and violates the rules of the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement). The panel made the same criticism of individual Russian bans on imports from Poland, Lithuania and Estonia.
Meaning of WTO ruling for pig and pork producers
The ruling sends another strong signal to Russia and all WTO Members on their obligation to respect international standards and to adapt their measures to respect the principle of Regionalization (Art.6 of the WTO-SPS Agreement). The panel underlined that WTO Members can exercise their right to determine their appropriate levels of sanitary protection and to restrict imports on the basis of sanitary concerns as long as they are effectively responding to real sanitary risks. This does not, therefore, concern products coming from disease-free areas.
The EU has one of the world's most efficient animal health and food safety systems, including high detection levels and stringent risk management rules. The EU will continue to use WTO procedures to ensure that international trade rules are effectively respected.