MOSCOW, August 8 (RIA Novosti) – The World Trade Organization will probably not examine any complaints from western countries against Russia for imposing food bans until September, a source in the organization acquainted with the situation said Friday.
“The WTO is currently on summer vacation. Any country wishing to react may make a statement during a session of the committee or council, or may present a document for the session, but there aren’t any sessions scheduled until September,” the source said.
On August 6, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree that banned for a year imports of agricultural and food products from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia.
The banned products include meat, poultry, fish, seafood, milk, dairy products, fruits and vegetables from Australia, Canada, the European Union, the United States and Norway. The embargo does not include infant foods and products.
Under the trade regulator’s rules, the WTO member states can initiate a debate outside the committee’s session. It is then given 60 days’ time to settle the issue without WTO mediation. In case of a failure, the plaintiff is entitled to have the case looked into by the WTO panel.
The source said it could take the WTO “weeks or months” to act on Russia’s agricultural products ban.
On Thursday, the Lithuanian finance minister said the European Union was ready to appeal to the WTO over the Russian embargo. Lithuania is one of the EU nations which is most vulnerable to the food ban, with imports to Russia equivalent to 2.5 percent of its GDP.
This is not the first time the European Union files a case against Russia to the trade regulator. In June, the 28-member bloc asked the WTO to rule over a dispute concerning Russia’s pork embargo, after two cases of African swine fever were recorded in Poland and Lithuania.
Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research said Thursday that Western sanctions against Russia were almost certainly illegal under the WTO, and so Russia could pursue a case there as well.