Poland has asked the European Commission to send a formal complaint to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over the Russian ban on imported EU food products that has hit Poland particularly hard, the Polish Economy Ministry said on Tuesday (19 August).

So far the Commission been cautious about taking the embargo case to the WTO, with lawyers in Brussels advising it could escalate a trade conflict with Russia over Ukraine.

On 7 August, Russia banned the import of EU food products, including fruit and vegetables from Poland. Poland's total food exports to Russia are worth around €1.13 billion per year. As the EU's second biggest apple producer, Poland is now stuck with some 700,000 tonnes of the fruit it usually sells to Russia.

The ban was imposed in response to Western economic sanctions against Russia, over its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, and a pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine, which Western capitals accuse Moscow of fomenting.

Poland's economy ministry told the news agency Reuters it had sent the request to European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, who represents EU members in all WTO cases.

After a meeting with De Gucht on Tuesday, Poland's Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki said that preliminary EU consultations were currently under way and that first decisions on the lawsuit could be made as soon as September 12.

"The United States', Australia's and Canada's opinion will also be important," Sawicki was quoted as saying by Polish state news agency PAP. "I believe Deputy Prime Minister (Janusz) Piechociński will engage in talks with those countries."

The WTO, should it rule in favour of any Commission complaint, could fine Russia for violating regulations on open markets. But Sawicki said Russia was not responding to pressure from the EU or the US.

The EU argues its sanctions have been imposed in defence of Ukraine's sovereignty. Russia argues it is playing no role in arming, advising or promoting rebellion in eastern Ukraine.

On 8 April, the European Commission opened a WTO dispute against the Russian embargo on EU pork imposed earlier this year.