Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic January 31, 2014 - 4:34 pm

Canada and Norway continue to battle EU seal ban

Governments appeal WTO’S November ruling

PETER VARGA

Canada and Norway have followed through on their challenge to the European Union’s ban on seal products through the World Trade Organization.

The dispute entered another stage, Jan. 24, when each country filed appeals against a WTO ruling that the EU ban is justified on moral grounds.

The Canadian government promised to appeal the ruling after it was announced, Nov. 25.

“In doing so, Canada is following through on its commitment to appeal any findings that would allow this unfair ban to continue,” Leona Aglukkaq, Canada’s minister of environment and minister for the Arctic Council, said in a prepared statement Jan. 24.

Although the WTO judgment found that the European Union’s ban on Canadian seal products was not consistent with fair trade practices, it upheld the EU trade regulation because it addressed “public moral concerns.”

“The question is, on whose moral grounds did the World Trade Organization decide that this will be upheld?” Aglukkaq told Nunatsiaq News Nov. 25, after the WTO dispute settlement panel announced its judgment. “It undermines the indigenous people’s way of life, and it’s discriminatory.”

“It’s not based on any science of wildlife management practices,” she added. “It’s really going down a slippery slope of management based on moral issues.”

The dispute stems from a 2009 European Commission regulation that bans the sale of seal products in EU member states.

Aglukkaq maintained, Jan. 24, that “Canada remains steadfast in its position that the seal harvest is a humane, sustainable and well-regulated activity. Any views to the contrary are based on myths and misinformation, and the panel’s findings should be of concern to all members.”

Norway echoed Canada’s concerns, and has appealed the WTO ruling on similar grounds.

“Of particular concern is the panel’s failure to recognize the importance of Norway’s rules which ensure high animal welfare standards in the seal hunt,” the Norwegian Embassy in Ottawa stated in a Jan. 24 news release. “Moreover, the panel largely failed to take into account Norway’s arguments on sustainable management of marine resources.”

The EU is also challenging some of the dispute settlement panel’s findings. According to documents dated Jan. 29 on the European Commission’s website, the EU alleges that the WTO wrongly interpreted its seal ban as a “technical regulation.” If true, Canada and Norway’s appeals would not hold.

The Canadian government expects a hearing on Canada’s appeal will take place by the beginning of March.

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