Canada, Russia At Odds Over Pork Ban

Trade minister said Canada may take action against Russia if it keeps import restrictions on Canadian pork, adding he would prefer to resolve the problem through discussions.

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) -- Canada may take action against Russia if it keeps import restrictions on Canadian pork, the trade minister said Friday, adding he would prefer to resolve the problem through discussions.

After the outbreak of swine flu, 16 countries imposed bans or import restrictions on pork or pork products, including Russia and China, which are major markets for Canada. Russia banned pork from Canada -- adding to restrictions imposed on some US states, Spain and Mexico -- on Monday.

During a two-day visit in Romania, Stockwell Day, Canada's minister of international trade, said Russia and other countries should lift the bans.

"This product is not harmful (and) we are asking for the ban to be lifted," Stockwell said in Bucharest. "If countries are banning products we expect it to be based on scientifically approved evidence that a product is a health risk," he told reporters.

"If the ban continues we will look to see what action we can take," against Russia. He said that action would include challenges at the World Trade Organization, which Russia is not a member of. Canada could impose economic sanctions on Russia, but Day declined to be more specific.

The World Health Organization issued a statement earlier this week saying there is no evidence the virus is transmitted by food and said the bans are unjustified.

China has this week also banned imported pork and pork products to include the Canadian province of Alberta. That followed China's ban on imports of pork and pork products from Mexico and a handful of U.S. states in an effort to block the spread of swine flu.

Day added that Canada would prefer to resolve the issue through discussion, saying he had called his Chinese counterpart and asked him to reconsider the ban.

Canada exports close to two-thirds of its pork and pork products. About 40 percent goes to the U.S., but Japan, Russia and South Korea are also big markets.

Day was on a two day visit to Romania, to discuss Canadian investments in Romania. Canada has sizable investments in nuclear energy, drilling and mining in Romania.

Canada said Monday it has 140 confirmed cases of swine flu, including a young girl with a severe case who has been hospitalized, a first for the country.

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