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EU urges Russia to lift import ban on cattle, pigs

BRUSSELS, Mar 20 – The European Union called on Russia on Tuesday to lift a ban on imports of pigs, cattle and other live animals from the EU, saying it sent a “very bad signal” to trade partners.

Voicing “deep disappointment” about the Russian decision, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and EU Health Commissioner John Dalli said the ban was “disproportionate and unjustified.”

“The trade in these live animals from the EU has in no way endangered the health of citizens of the Russian Federation,” they said in a joint statement.

“These restrictions are therefore not based upon scientific fact, necessity or proportionality in any way.”

The ban, they added, is not in line with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules or Russia’s commitments on sanitary matters during the country’s negotiations to join the global body.

“As a result, the European Commission considers that Russia is sending a very negative signal to its international trade partners on its seriousness towards the WTO,” they said.

Russia’s Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance said Monday that the ban would go into effect Tuesday over fears about the Schmallenberg virus that causes birth defects in cattle.

But Dalli and De Gucht insisted that “this is not relevant as pigs are not affected by these diseases.”

The Russian statement called the ban “temporary” but gave no indication of when it might be lifted.

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Russia issued its first warning two weeks ago after initially suspending live-animal and genetic-material imports from five Western European countries in January.

The threat instilled immediate panic in Latvia — a small Baltic nation that one local official said could lose about two-thirds of its export revenues.

A group of EU experts flew to Moscow last week in a bid to defuse the dispute on Latvia’s strong insistence.

EU exports of live animals, including pigs, cattle, sheep and goats, to Russia amounted to 188 million euros in 2011, of which 75 million euros are affected by the ban.


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