Harper Government Moves Forward to Establish WTO Panel on European Union Seal Ban

Norway seeks to join Canada in challenge

(No. 123 - March 25, 2011 - 11:40 a.m. ET) The Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, joined by Senator Fabian Manning of Newfoundland and Labrador, today announced that Canada is moving forward with its challenge on the European Union’s ban on seal products by requesting the establishment of a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement panel to examine the matter.

“Canada is deeply disappointed that the European Union has ignored its international trade obligations with this measure,” said Minister Shea. “We have requested the establishment of a World Trade Organization dispute settlement panel to address the matter.”

In February, Canada announced that it was requesting the establishment of a WTO panel to challenge the European Union ban on trade in Canadian seal products. This request was blocked by the European Union. Under the rules of the WTO, however, a panel is automatically established after a second request, which Canada submitted today.

“Like-minded nations need to form a common front in the face of common challenges,” said Minister Shea. “We are proud to have a strong partner like Norway standing with us as we pursue this trade action and as we continue to defend the legitimate economic activities of sealers.”

Norway, another complainant in this dispute, has moved ahead with its first request for a WTO panel to rule on the European Union seal ban.

“We hope to continue to coordinate efforts with Norway and pursue the matter in tandem,” said Senator Manning. “Like Canada, Norway has long made efforts to ensure that the seal hunt is humane, well managed and sustainable.”

A WTO panel of experts will be selected in the coming weeks to hear the case. Panels take approximately 15 months to make a public report and render a decision.

For more information on this dispute, please visit European Communities—Measures Prohibiting the Importation and Marketing of Seal Products.

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A backgrounder follows.

For further information, media representatives may contact:

Trade Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
613-996-2000

Kate Davis
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
613-992-3474

Frank Stanek
Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
613-990-7537

 


Backgrounder – Request for a WTO Panel: European Union Ban on Trade in Seal Products

On November 2, 2009, Canada took formal action against the European Union’s ban on seal products by requesting World Trade Organization consultations.

These consultations, which took place on December 15, 2009, failed to resolve the matter. The European Union then published additional measures on August 17, 2010, outlining how the ban and the exceptions to it would be implemented. 

On August 19, 2010, one day before the ban came into effect, Canada announced that it would request the establishment of a WTO dispute settlement panel, as soon as possible, to rule on the European Union ban on seal products.

On October 18, 2010, Canada requested follow-up WTO consultations with the European Union on the additional measures published on August 17, which outlined how the European Union ban on seal products and the exceptions to it would be implemented.

The follow-up consultations were held on December 1, 2010. Again, the consultations failed to resolve the matter.

On February 11, 2011, Canada announced it was requesting the establishment of a WTO panel to challenge the European Union ban on trade in Canadian seal products. This request was blocked by the European Union.

Today, Canada submitted a second request. Under the rules of the WTO, a panel will now be automatically established.