RUSSIA/USA: Egg row could spark off trade war
The risk of a trade war erupting between the European Union and Russia, over Moscow's ban on the import of fresh EU eggs, has been made starkly clear by a Brussels document that has called on ministers to get tough with the Russian government over the problem.Russia has banned the import of EU-laid fresh eggs since 1996, citing health risks, but has allowed the importation of eggs from the States, leading to US producers seizing sizeable chunks of the Russian market. The European Commission has consistently called for scientific evidence to be produced that justifies the ban, but this has not been forthcoming.Now Brussels appears to have lost its patience with Russia, with whom the EU has a trade treaty - the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) - which outlaws quantitative restrictions and health measures involving "arbitrary discrimination or a disguised restriction on trade."It has asked EU ministers to invoke a special meeting of the EU-Russia Cooperation Council to seek a "solution acceptable to both parties," and if this does not work, for ministers "to take appropriate and proportionate measures in order to respond to the failure of the Russian Federation to fulfil its obligations under the PCA," although it does not specify what these "sanctions" might involve.The Commission document says that European egg producers have "suffered substantial economic losses due to the fact that they are no longer able to export fresh eggs to Russia."It says that Brussels has "on several occasions raised its concerns with the Russian authorities," during meetings of the Cooperation Council and its committees and sub-committees, but to no avail.The document said that the row could only be solved by the removal of the ban or the provision of "convincing scientific evidence that the ban is justified on health grounds."
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