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Harper to appeal WTO ruling in favour of EU ban on seal products

The Harper government will appeal a World Trade Organization ruling today that states a European Union ban on seal products undermines international trade obligations but is justified due to ‘public moral concerns’ over animal welfare.

CTV reports, “On Monday, the WTO issued its ruling in the years-long dispute, saying that while the ban largely conforms to international trade rules, it does contain inconsistencies that need fixing. For example, exceptions for aboriginal hunts are ‘not equally available to all Inuit or indigenous communities’ and are ‘not designed and applied in an even-handed manner’. But the WTO also found that the ban ‘fulfills the objective of addressing the EU public moral concerns on seal welfare to a certain extent, and no alternative measure has been demonstrated to make an equivalent or greater contribution’ to that goal.”

The news article notes, “The ruling came from a 2009 decision by the EU to ban all seal product imports, with an exception for products resulting from Inuit and aboriginal hunts. The ban came into effect in August 2010. Canada and Norway appealed the ban to the WTO, which convened a trade dispute panel to review the ban and the challenge. Canada’s appeal will likely be heard early next year.”

Last Friday, CBC reported, “The European Union’s ban on the import of seal products was not discussed as part of the free trade negotiations between Canada and Europe… The seal ban was considered, but it was felt (presumably by the European Commission and Canadian negotiators) that the issue was a dispute best left to be resolved under the ongoing World Trade Organization dispute process.”

Given today’s decision, the Harper government’s decision to appeal, this issue will extend the controversy well into 2014 and closer to the ratification vote for CETA expected around August-September 2015.

This all creates a very interesting dynamic. More than 100 Members of the European Parliament – a legislature which must approve the deal – signed a statement in 2011 asserting that the European Parliament ‘should not support the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement until Canada withdraws its WTO challenge against the EU Regulation on trade in seal products’. 

And it appears that the Harper government is not about to drop the WTO challenge.

Further reading
Seal hunt remains an outstanding CETA issue
100 MEPs say, ‘No CETA if Harper challenges seal hunt ban at WTO’
European MPs express skepticism/ opposition to CETA
EU parliament draws red lines through Canada-EU free trade talks