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EU opens trade probe into salmon imports

The European Commission decided on Friday to open an investigation into imports of salmon into the EU as Britain and Ireland seek limits on shipments from Norway and other major suppliers.

The European Commission decided on Friday to open an investigation into imports of salmon into the EU as Britain and Ireland seek limits on shipments from Norway and other major suppliers.

"We have been given sufficient evidence to open the case. There has been a sudden increase from all sources," Commission trade spokeswoman Arancha Gonzalez told a news conference. "The UK and Irish governments have quoted a rise of 14 percent in input," she added.

Britain and Ireland hope the Commission will agree with them that salmon imports are rising fast enough to warrant special safeguard measures to restrict imports to protect their own fish-farm industries.

Such measures can include quotas and special punitive duties for imports above the quota. If approved, they would apply to all imports of farmed Atlantic salmon, mainly affecting Norway, the Faeroe Islands and Chile.

Gonzalez said the Commission's investigation would take nine months and that in the meantime the EU was holding talks with companies shipping the fish into the bloc.

EU diplomats have said a majority of EU states are likely to back the start of a probe, but their position on the actual imposition of safeguard measures was not clear.

Any decision by the EU executive to impose restrictions needs approval from a majority of EU states.

Norwegian industry officials have rejected the British and Irish complaints. Norway is home to Pan Fish, the world's second-biggest salmon farmer, as well as Fjord Seafood and Leroy Seafood.