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Poland enlists EU help to launch WTO complaint over Russia food embargo

Published time: August 19, 2014 19:57
Apples are pictured at a fruit and vegetables market in Warsaw (Reuters / Filip Klimaszewski)

Apples are pictured at a fruit and vegetables market in Warsaw (Reuters / Filip Klimaszewski)

Poland’s Economic Ministry has sent the European Commission a request to launch an official complaint to the WTO to examine Russia’s EU food embargo.

Polish Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki filed the request Tuesday with the European Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht after a meeting in Brussels, Reuters reported.

"The US's, Australia and Canada's opinion will also be important," Sawicki told Polish state news agency PAP, adding he believes the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Piechocinski will lead the discussions with other EU states.

A final verdict could be made as soon as September 12, but Brussels worries about the consequences of escalating the trade conflict by bringing it before the WTO.

Many politicians in Brussels want to see an end to the food standoff as soon as possible, and do not want to trigger more sanctions from Moscow.

The letter is a follow-up to Poland’s announcement on August 12 they had prepared the request to present to the WTO in response to Russia’s August 7 ban of EU imports.

Warsaw is getting hit hard in the new trade war with Russia: food exports to Russia totaled $1.5 billion in 2013. Together with the Netherlands and Germany, Poland is currently Russia's top-three biggest food suppliers in the EU.

Russia has banned all meat, pork, fruit, vegetable, and dairy products from all 28 EU member states, as well as the US, Norway, Canada, and Australia.

Poland, along with other EU countries like Greece, have already attempted to send their exports to Russia vis-à-vis Belarus, but were caught at the border by Russia’s consumer watchdog, Roselkhoznador.

Other EU countries that now find their imports on Russia’s blacklist have filed similar inquiries in Brussels. On Monday, the European Commission said it would allot €125 million in 'exceptional’ aid over the trade crisis.

Spain, a large exporter of oranges to Russia, already estimates it will miss out on €337 million in food and agriculture sales due to blocked access to the Russian market. Italy has estimated its losses at nearly €1 billion.