04/07/2013 02:40 EDT | Updated 06/07/2013 05:12 EDT

Russia must abide by WTO rules, says cattlemen's union

The Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA) is concerned that new Russian meat restrictions set to take effect this week could contravene international trade rules.

Russia is expected to announce new guidelines Monday that will limit imports of pork and beef whose feed contained the additive ractopamine.

Ractopamine is an additive that produces leaner meat and is used by virtually all beef and pork producers in Canada.

Now that Russia is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the cattlemen's union says such restrictions are a form of protectionism that violates international trade rules.

"Russia has done this before," says John Masswohl, the CCA's director of government and international relations, "but previously, they were not a member of the WTO. They are now a brand new member of the WTO. They do need to abide by the rules of that agreement and we expect them to."

Masswohl says that he doesn't believe Russians are concerned about health impacts of ractopamine but rather protecting their own beef and pork producers.

If that's the case, Canada could challenge the new rules at the WTO — but that could come with its own problems.

"The problem with the big stick is that it takes so long," Masswohl says. "We're talking years when it comes to the WTO. Often in these situations you want to see if you can find a pragmatic solution that will get you the access in a shorter period of time."

Russia imports only about $15-million worth of Canadian beef each year but is Canada's third largest customer for pork.

Last year, Russia bought close to $500-million worth of Canadian pork.