October 14, 2019 / 11:52 AM / a month ago

EU to challenge Colombia at WTO to protect Belgian fries

FILE PHOTO: A fritkot owner tosses fries in a fries stand in Brussels, Belgium, May 18, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will file a complaint at the World Trade Organization against Colombia over duties imposed on imports of frozen potato fries, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said on Monday.

Colombia imposed anti-dumping duties of up to 8% in November 2018 on frozen fries from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany after complaining that the prices of these imports were artificially low.

Malmstrom said the move was completely unjustified and harmful to European companies and that she had instructed EU trade officials on Monday to launch a WTO challenge.

“We have made different efforts to reach out to Colombia over the last two years, but we have not received a satisfactory response and that is why we have decided to take this step to protect our industry,” she told a news conference.

Belgium, the self-proclaimed home of potato fries, urged the European Union a year ago to launch legal action.

Although small in monetary terms - the EU as a whole exports just 25 million euros ($27.6 million) of frozen fries to Colombia per year - the dispute is big in symbolism particularly for Belgium, which argues that it invented the “French” fry.

The first step in a WTO dispute is a 60-day period of consultations. If these do not resolve the issue, the complainant can ask for a WTO panel to adjudicate.

The EU and Colombia have had a trade deal in place since 2013.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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