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WTO appellate report strengthens EU case in pork ban dispute with Russia


Russia is probably regretting having appealed the first WTO dispute panel finding against one of its most politically charged trade tussle with the EU.   

In September 2016, the dispute settlement body in Geneva ruled that Russia’s import ban on pork products from Baltic states introduced in 2014 and extended to the entire EU (barring Sardinia) was inconsistent with the WTO’s sanitary and phytosanitary agreement. The appellate body upheld the ruling, and even reinforced the DSB’s indictment of Russian measures.  

The tribunal ruled in particular that Russia had not implemented SPS agreement regionalisation obligations and not properly assessed the EU’s submissions and papers to the Russian authorities in its request to have its veterinary certificates for pigmeat recognised as pest free. The tribunal also rebuffed Russian legal arguments amounting to shifting responsibility for what it deemed EU non compliance with bilateral veterinary certificates away from the Russian government.  

The appellate body also disagreed with the one issue on which the panel had agreed with Russia, namely that the EU had not properly demonstrated that Russia had adapted the ban on imports on products from Latvia. “We modify the Panel’s findings… of the Panel Report, to the effect that the European Union has failed to demonstrate that Russia did not adapt the ban on imports of the products at issue from Latvia to the SPS characteristics of areas within the Latvian territory”, the appellate body report reads.  

The pork ban ruling is the first in a series of WTO cases pitting the EU against Russia. Russia has lost two cases against the EU so far, concerning Russian antidumping duties on vehicles, and Russian tariff rates on a series of industrial and agricultural products.  

Russian compliance with the pork ban will be challenging as it is tied into its broader political dispute with the EU over Ukraine, and due to what observers perceive as the very strong lobby power of Russian pork producers.

Re-read our full analysis of the WTO’s dispute settlement panel report.