France threatened over white asbestos ban

EU supports French prohibition as Canada requests World Trade Organisation Panel

Canada made a formal complaint to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over a French ban on white asbestos, or chrysotile, on Wednesday. At a meeting of the WTO disputes settlement body, Canada requested the creation of a panel to consider the validity of the French ban after the two sides had failed to reach an agreement during consultations that have lasted for several months. The EU rejected the request on behalf of France, and a decision was therefore postponed until the next meeting of the body, which is due in November. A spokesperson for the Canadian foreign ministry told ENDS Daily that the request would be retabled at that meeting, and that this second request would trigger the establishment of a panel whether or not the EU objected. Canada, which is one of the world's largest white asbestos exporters, claims the French ban contravenes WTO rules on free trade. Though France is the ninth EU member state to ban white asbestos, it is the most recent one and did so when new WTO rules were in force. The European Commission, which is preparing a proposal for an EU-wide ban on white asbestos, supported France publicly yesterday. In a statement, it expressed itself "confident that the French measure is compatible with WTO obligations". "In France alone, 2,000 [people] die of cancer caused by asbestos every year," it added.

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