WTO formally backs French asbestos ban

Canadian objections overruled in 465-page panel report posted on WTO website

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has formally announced backing for a French ban on white asbestos (chrysotile) imports against objections levelled by Canada, the world's second largest chrysotile producer. The 465-page report of the WTO disputes panel was finalised in July, when news of its contents first emerged (ENDS Daily 27 July).

According to the report, France's ban on asbestos is justified even though it breaches trade rules in the general agreement on tariffs and trade (Gatt) signed in 1994. Second, the panel rules that the operative part of the French prohibition does not fall within the scope of the WTO "technical barriers to trade" agreement and therefore cannot be challenged under these rules. Third, it finds that Canada has not proved economic harm within the terms of Gatt 1994.

Formal closure of the Canada-France asbestos dispute means that EU plans to introduce a general ban on most uses of chrysotile from 2005 are now much less likely to be open to Canadian challenge. Plans for an EU-wide ban were confirmed during the Canadian-French dispute process (ENDS Daily 29 July).

Follow Up:
WTO, tel: +41 22 739 5111. See also the disputes panel report, (which is also posted in French and Spanish).

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