Brazil will ask the World Trade Organization to open a dispute panel over European Union poultry regulations it considers illegal, a senior government official told Reuters.

“We’ve concluded that we have a strong case and will proceed,” said Carlos Marcio Cozendey, head of the foreign ministry’s department of economics.

Latin America’s largest country has become a major player in international trade negotiations in recent years in line with the growing importance of its booming economy.

Brazil’s poultry exports are the largest in the world and generated revenues of around $7 billion in 2008, before the financial crisis tempered global demand.

The EU, which adopted new regulations in May restricting the sale of certain thawed poultry products, is Brazil’s third-largest market.

Brussels says that the measures apply also to its own poultry producers. But Brazil argues they discriminate against non-EU suppliers, who mostly ship frozen, not fresh poultry.

In the first half of the year, Brazil’s chicken exports to the EU fell to 206,000 tons down 19.2 percent from 2009.

The government could present its case to the WTO before the end of the year, but was still detailing its report and calculating estimated damages to the industry, Cozendey said. (Reuters)