11th Dec 2019

WTO ruling fails to end EU-Norwegian row over salmon

A World Trade Organisation ruling has failed to end an 18-year long battle between the EU and Norway over the bloc's anti-dumping measures on Norwegian salmon imports, with both sides claiming victory.

On Friday (16 November), the WTO stated that the "measure is inconsistent" with international trade rules and it is necessary to "bring the measure into conformity" with those rules.

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However, the body stopped short of explicitly ordering the EU to drop its safeguard measures. "In this case, we exercise our discretion to not make any suggestions concerning ways in which the European Community could implement our recommendation to bring its measure into conformity", the ruling says.

The dispute dates back to 1989, when the first restrictions on salmon imports from Norway were put into place.

Those were further strengthened in 2004 in response to a complaint by Scottish and Irish salmon farmers, who claimed that Norwegian fish was being exported to the EU at a price lower than in Norway or lower than the cost of production.

The latest set of measures - six minimum import prices for various salmon products - was imposed in 2006.

According to Oslo's legal interpretation of the WTO ruling, the union's only option now is to scrap the anti-dumping measures and provide the Norwegian salmon industry with equal treatment.

"We expect the EU to withdraw the measures within a short period of time. It is important that the Norwegian salmon industry has stable conditions for export to the EU as soon as possible", the country's foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Store, said on Friday.

The minister stressed that the basis for measures has been "flawed", as the EU did not take into account the situation of its entire salmon industry, but only of a small number of Scottish fish farmers. This objection was endorsed by the WTO.

However, the 27-nation EU has also claimed victory in the legal battle with Norway - a country that fully participates in the EU's single market, except for the fish industry and agriculture.

EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said in a statement that "I welcome the WTO's clear rejection of the Norwegian claim that the EU's measures against the dumping of salmon from Norway should be abolished".

The same interpretation came from Scotland, with the country's minister for environment, Michael Russell, saying that "EU anti-dumping measures against farmed salmon from Norway are necessary, proportionate and fair".

Both sides may appeal the WTO verdict within two months.

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