STC Number - 348

EU quarantine measures on certain pine trees and other products

Maintained by: European Union
Raised by: Russian Federation
Supported by:
First date raised: March 2013 G/SPS/R/70 paras. 3.14-3.17
Dates subsequently raised: June 2013 (G/SPS/R/71 paras. 4.44-4.45)
Number of times subsequently raised: 1
Relevant documents: Part A of Appendix 3 of EU Council Directive 2000/29
Products covered:
Primary subject keyword: Plant Health
Keywords: Plant health; Sufficiency of scientific evidence
Status: Not reported
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In March 2013, Russia expressed its concern that Part A of Appendix 3 of EU Council Directive 2000/29 prohibited imports into the European Union of Pinus, Picea and Tsuga plants, among others, from non-European countries. Russia considered that this restriction was not compliant with Articles 3 and 5 of the SPS Agreement. Furthermore, the European Union had categorized the Russian territory into two areas and had applied the import ban to the so-called "Asian" side of Russia but not to the "European" side, which was discriminatory and not compliant with Article 2 of the SPS Agreement. No justification had been provided by the European Union in support of this measure. This discriminatory treatment had a high cost for Russia's economy, in particular for exporters of Pinus sibiricus, for whom the redirection of their product to other markets had resulted in additional costs and lower product quality. Russia urged the European Union to provide scientific evidence to justify its measure and to remove its restriction.

The European Union noted that under the European plant health legislation there were very few cases where plant imports were prohibited. In such cases, each plant required an individual risk assessment which demonstrated that there were no plant health concerns in order to obtain a derogation. In March 2011, following a request from Russia to export Siberian Pine trees to the European Union, the European Union provided Russia with its justification for the import prohibition with a list of the quarantine pests considered to be relevant in that particular case. If Russia wished to export pine trees to the European Union it had to submit a full dossier explaining how Russia intended to guarantee that the EU requirements for plants of the Pinus species were fulfilled. Although the matter was first raised a number of years ago, the European Union had thus far received very limited information from Russia. The European Union highlighted that this matter, amongst others, was to be discussed bilaterally with Russia. In this context the European Union drew the attention of the Committee to its concerns with respect to the notification practices of Russia since acceding to the WTO. The European Union indicated that it was willing to engage in a constructive dialogue to resolve trade irritants on both sides. On the issue of the specific trade concern, the European Union recalled the necessity for submitting a complete dossier to support a derogation from the import prohibition on plants of the Pinus species.

Russia stated that the European Union should not justify its measures by bringing to light other difficulties experienced in its bilateral relations with Russia, and reiterated its request for scientific evidence, as the information referenced by the European Union was not in Russia's possession.

The European Union replied that it made no link between the current specific trade concern of Russia and other issues on their bilateral agenda. The European Union had already provided its justification for the import prohibition in place, together with a list of the relevant quarantine pests, and thus, now looked forward to receiving the relevant Russian dossier to justify a derogation to the existing prohibition.

In June 2013, Russia reiterated its concern that EU Council Directive 2000/29 prohibited imports into the European Union of Pinus plants, among others, and seed potatoes from Russia. Russia claimed that the restriction was not based on scientific evidence and Russia was not aware of any justification for the measure. The EU requirement to provide a technical dossier to obtain a derogation to the restriction was not provided for in any international standard or agreement and was therefore considered discriminatory. Given the strong trade impact of the measure, Russia urged the European Union to remove its restriction.

The European Union noted that the request of Russia for a derogation to be able to export potatoes and coniferous plants to the European Union had been intensively discussed in a bilateral setting, and technical discussions with EU member States had started. Nevertheless, to obtain the derogation, a technical dossier was needed. The EU request for information in order to carry out a specific risk assessment on this trade request from Russia was fully legitimate. The European Union repeated its engagement to find a satisfactory solution and looked forward to receiving the necessary technical information from Russia that would allow it to proceed.