BRUSSELS (Reuters) -The European Union launched a challenge at the World Trade Organization against Egypt on Wednesday over an import registration system the bloc says is a restriction on a vast range of goods from farm produce to household appliances.
The Commission said the registration process is arbitrary and can take years. Egyptian authorities had failed to process applications of many EU companies for long periods, it added.
"These import restrictions are illegal under WTO rules and we regret that Egypt has not acted to remove these, despite our repeated requests and efforts to resolve this issue," EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said in a statement.
Egypt's trade ministry said the registration system was put in place for quality control and stressed "its commitment to the rules and legislation regulating international trade.
"The Egyptian government is keen on strengthening its economic ties with the EU, one of Egypt's most important trading partners," a trade ministry official said in a statement.
Registration is required for agricultural and food products, cosmetics, toys, textiles, garments, household appliances, furniture and ceramic tiles, the EU executive said.
The European Commission, which oversees EU trade policy, said its exports to Egypt of the 29 categories of goods concerned fell by 40% following Egypt's imposition of import registration in 2016.
WTO challenges start with a formal period of consultations between the parties. If they do not resolve the dispute, the EU can request that a WTO panel rule on the matter.
Egypt's trade ministry said that both parties have 60 days of consultations to resolve the issue.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels and Aidan Lewis and Sarah El Safty in Cairo; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Alex Richardson)