January 27, 2017 / 3:31 PM / 10 months ago

EU scrapes a win in WTO row over Russian duties on vans

GENEVA (Reuters) - The European Union scored a few legal hits against Russia in a World Trade Organization ruling on Friday, having launched a challenge in May 2014 against Russian anti-dumping duties on German and Italian light commercial vehicles.

A World Trade Organization (WTO) logo is pictured on their headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, June 3, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

But the panel of WTO adjudicators, threw out many of the EU’s arguments. Russia had imposed duties of 29.6 percent on German van imports and 23 percent on imports from Italy in 2013, claiming they were unfairly priced to undermine Russian producers.

The case was one of a string of apparently tit-for-tat legal moves between the EU and Russia soon after Russia joined the WTO in 2012, 19 years after it started negotiating its membership.

Friday’s ruling, which can be appealed by either side, may help shape Russia’s use of anti-dumping duties or EU attempts to counter them, actions that show no sign of slowing down.

European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said the WTO had made a very clear ruling against an unfair, protectionist and anti-competitive measure.

“The duties on light commercial vehicles are not in line with commitments by Russia at the time it joined the WTO. Those measures now have to be removed,” she said in a statement.

WTO members are allowed to impose duties on imports they think are being “dumped”, or unfairly priced to compete with their own production, but they have to be able to prove it.

The WTO panel upheld the EU’s argument that Russia had not correctly assessed its own market for vans, having defined its domestic industry as consisting of one producer, Sollers (SVAV.MM), and excluding another, GAZ GAZA.MM.

But other EU arguments, such as a claim that Russia had mixed up data expressed in dollars and roubles, failed to convince the arbitrators.

Relations between the EU and Russia reached a low after the overthrow of Ukraine’s Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 and Russia’s annexation of Crimea and backing of a separatist revolt in eastern Ukraine, prompting EU sanctions.

Editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Robin Pomeroy

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