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Russia refutes trade bloc exit over EU pork row

By Ren Qi | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-10 10:18

Russia is unlikely to surrender its World Trade Organization membership despite a senior official threatening to do so amid a Russia-European Union pork ban dispute, experts said.

Sergey Kalashnikov, first deputy head of the economic committee of the Federation Council of the Russia, said Moscow may leave the WTO if the EU levies $1.66 billion a year on Russia due to its restriction of pork imports, the official newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported.

"The very fact imposing sanctions by the EU leadership against Russia is contrary to the principles of the international organization," Kalashnikov said.

"So far, what the EU says is illegal. WTO claims cast doubt on necessity for Russia to participate in this organization - it does not give us anything but problems and complete insecurity from the sanctions policy."

The Russian government has already denied the possibility of leaving the WTO.

According to the ITAR-Tass news agency, the Russian Economic Development Ministry claimed on Monday that authorities are not considering plans to leave the WTO amid a dispute on limiting pork imports from the EU.

"WTO membership gives Russia a predictable and transparent legal framework on external markets. Authorities will not discuss WTO withdrawal issue in order to diversity Russia's exports," the ministry said.

Yang Cheng, professor of the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Shanghai International Studies University, said Russia will not quit the WTO as the country only managed to acquire membership after decades of negotiations.

Yang said the potential withdrawal will cost a lot to Russia's recovering economy, which would go against the Kremlin's determination for a stable economic increase.

Ding Peihua, a researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, agreed, saying the pork ban dispute is just an individual case and it would hurt Russia's long-term plan for economic development if the country quit the multilateral cooperation organization.

Russia imposed a ban on imports of live pigs and pig-breeding products in early 2014 over an outbreak of African swine fever in Lithuania.

In August 2016, the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body ruled that Russia's ban was noncompliant with WTO rules. Russia challenged this ruling but its motion was dismissed in February 2017.

Yang said some Western media said Russia's pork ban was revenge for EU sanctions on the country. However, the ban has been lifted without any direct relations to the Ukraine crisis.

"The ban could be politicized under the background of current Russian-EU relation," Yang said.

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