August 23, 2016
Last week a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel declared illegal the Russian import ban on live pigs, fresh pork and other pig products from the European Union (EU) in the light of international trade rules. Another panel also ruled recently on certain import duties imposed by Russia.
The ruling from last week concerns a ban imposed by Russia in early 2014 because of a limited number of cases of African Swine Fever (ASF) in areas in the EU close to the border with Belarus.
The panel acknowledged that Russia's refusal to accept imports of certain EU products and to adapt EU-Russia import certificates accordingly amounts to an EU-wide import ban. This measure is not based on the relevant international standards and violates the rules of the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement).
In another ruling the previous week, a WTO panel confirmed that Russian import duties on paper, refrigerators and palm oil violate WTO rules. The import duties exceed those Russia agreed to when it joined the WTO.
Despite being a WTO member since August 2012, Russia has not yet fulfilled some of its commitments made before its accession. This includes one of the WTO's most fundamental rules, according to which its members must not apply customs duties in excess of the 'bound rates' they commit themselves to in their respective Schedules.
Following the dispute settlement procedure activated by the EU in October 2014, the WTO panel fully agreed that Russia's customs duties on paper, refrigerators and palm oil are inconsistent with its WTO commitments.
For certain paper products Russia applies duties of 15% or 10% instead of the 5% it agreed when it joined the WTO. For other products, Russia essentially fixes a minimum amount of import duty that needs to be paid even if this is not justified by the agreed duty rate (reflected in Russia's accession schedule) that is expressed in a percentage of the product value.
The panel confirmed that these measures are in breach of Article II-1 of the GATT.