The World Trade Organisation (WTO) appellate body ruled recently that
France was justified in banning imports of goods containing white
asbestos, rejecting a Canadian bid to have an earlier finding
overturned. Environmental groups welcomed the decision by three
arbitrators who upheld a landmark verdict issued last July. The
dispute settlement panel had found France's ban, in effect since
1997, conformed with WTO rules that permit trade bans if products
pose threats to human, animal or plant health. Four scientific
experts consulted by the original panel concurred that handling
white, or chrysotile, asbestos fibres and chrysotile-cement products
constitute a risk as they are highly toxic and cause cancer and other
diseases. France was defended in the case by the European Union,
which represents the trade interests of its 15 member states.
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