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NEWS: Harper government and European Commission clash over the seal hunt

The Globe and Mail reports this hour that, “A European Union ban on seal products that was to take effect Friday has been put on hold.”

“The president of the European General Court in Luxembourg issued an order Thursday to suspend the ban. This comes after an Inuit advocacy group (the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami) filed an application with the court to delay implementation of the ban.” Agence France Presse reports that, “The interim measure is to allow the suit to be heard.”

The Globe and Mail notes, “Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper denounced the European Union for its plan to impose the ban…” He said, “This is flagrant discrimination against the Canadian seal industry, against Canadian sealers … people who are doing animal husbandry, no differently than many other industries. It is a disgrace that they’re treated this way in some countries based on no rational facts or information whatsoever. We strongly object to the decision. We will continue to defend our sealers.”
The CBC adds that, “Last November, Canada made an official complaint to the World Trade Organization about the European ban. Stockwell Day, who was trade minister at the time, said last year that Ottawa had formally requested WTO consultations on the ban, the first stage of the world body’s dispute-settlement process. Day said the regulation, adopted by 27 European countries, was a violation of the EU’s trade obligations.”

Reuters reports Fisheries Minister Gail Shea stating in St. John’s today that, “The European Parliament has sided with radical animal rights lobbyists and opted to ignore our arguments, leaving us with no choice but to initiate a formal application for the establishment of a World Trade Organization dispute settlement panel to address the matter.”

Those are strong words from the fisheries minister given the overwhelming nature of the vote. In May 2009, the European Parliament voted 550-49 to ban the import of seal products.

Before the European General Court decision today, the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, stated, “The legislation that enters into force tomorrow applies to all seals, whether they are in the EU, Canada or in Norway. Thus any claims that we are discriminating against Canadian sealers are unfounded.”
The European Commission is the European body responsible for the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) talks.

Reuters notes, “The spat comes as Ottawa is pushing for closer economic ties with the EU, promising to finalize a free trade pact by next year… The next round of talks is in October. …Canada’s main seal hunt takes place in March and April on ice floes off the Atlantic Coast and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.”
The news reports are at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/eu-seal-ban-put-on-hold/article1678476/, http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/story/2010/08/19/nl-seal-ban-819.html, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iyslbEbA8qqpLPzQ_UKgJR4BbA2w, and http://ca.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idCATRE67I4TV20100819?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0.