Opinion

Opinion: Talk is cheap: WTO must deal decisively with Russia

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) must now act in a meaningful way, given that the organisation has found Moscow to be in breach of numerous international statutes and regulations, where Russia’s ban on EU food imports is concerned.

If it doesn’t then President Putin gets the victory that he has been looking for on a plate.

The WTO is one of the bodies that never seems to have that high a profile in this part of the world. But its impact on agriculture here in Ireland has been profound over the past twenty years or so.

It’s often overlooked that the need for EU compliance with WTO regulations was the main driver for the Fischler reforms of the CAP back in 2003. And it is this legacy, which continues to drive EU thinking on CAP reform even today.

The Fischler reforms severed the link between agricultural output and the subsidies made available to individual farms. The principle established was called de-coupling and its ‘enforcement’ by Brussels has led to the introduction of the Single Payment, as we know it today.

It’s also worth recalling that Ireland’s Harvest 2020 strategy and the subsequent Food Wise 2025 update were predicated on the principle – much highlighted by Simon Coveney – of sustainable intensification. But, in truth, it is the WTO which decides, at the end of the day, as to whether or not sustainable intensification can become reality

Meanwhile, the world looks on with keen interest as the WTO settles on how best to deal with Russia. Moscow has the right to respond to the findings made against it. But, in truth, I am surprised that is has taken the WTO so long to find President Putin and his colleagues to be in breach of world trading regulations.

The dogs in the street knew, from day one, that Russia introduced the ban of EU food imports for very clear political reasons. And this should not have been allowed to happen.

I am not sure if the WTO can fine Russia for the steps that it has taken against the EU. But something must be done to ensure that Moscow is not given the opportunity to flaunt the trade regulations and statutes, which it freely signed up to at some stage in the past.

But if this turns out to be the case then the WTO – and the rest of the world – will look pretty stupid.