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WTO to rule on Canada, Norway’s case against EU seal ban

Published on 21/04/2011

The World Trade Organization said Thursday it will rule on complaints brought by Canada and Norway against the European Union over Brussels' ban on the import of seal products.

“A panel has been established,” said a WTO spokeswoman, referring to a panel of arbitrators.

Norway and Canada had filed separate complaints in 2009 but the WTO decided that it will merge the two cases.

The European ban, which took effect in 2010, was imposed following pressure from animal rights activists who decried the cruelty of seal hunting.

While the ban includes an exemption for seal products derived from hunts traditionally conducted by Inuit and indigenous communities for subsistence, the Inuit insist the move adversely affects them because it shrinks the market for the product. They also fear the exemption would not always be respected.

In addition, Canada claims that commercial seal hunting has been hit over the past two years by shrinking sea ice.

The Canadian envoy stressed to the WTO dispute settlement body meeting that “Canada and Norway have long made efforts to ensure that the seal hunt is humane, well managed and sustainable.”

In its request for a WTO ruling on the issue, Norway claimed that the EU seal regime appeared to discriminate among products originating from different countries. This violates international trade rules, it said.

However, the European Union said it was “strongly convinced of the strength of its case.”

“We stand ready to defend our measures that we consider to be fully consistent with WTO law,” said the envoy.