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Canada Requests WTO Consultations on EU Seal Products Ban

(No. 327 - November 2, 2009 - 10 a.m. EST) The Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, today announced that the Government of Canada has taken formal action against the European Union’s ban on trade in seal products by requesting WTO consultations. WTO consultations are the first stage in the WTO dispute settlement process.

“Canada is standing up for its sealers,” said Minister Day. “The EU has adopted a regulation that bans the sale of Canadian seal products. We believe that this is a violation of the EU’s trade obligations. The Canadian seal hunt is a legitimate economic pursuit, and the EU’s decision to ban the importation of seal products is based neither on science nor on facts.”

The ban has been published as a regulation in the Official Journal of the European Union, which is the final stage of the EU’s legislative process. The ban will come into force in August 2010.

“We have made representations at all levels of the EU to inform them that the Canadian seal hunt is sustainable, humane and closely monitored,” said the Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. “Our government will continue to counter the misinformation campaign by the anti-seal hunt lobby groups, and we will continue to defend the interests and livelihoods of Canadian sealers.”

The EU regulation contains limited exemptions for products resulting from Inuit hunts, from hunts conducted solely to manage marine resources, and for travellers’ personal imports. The EU has not yet issued the rules for implementing these provisions.

“The limited Inuit exemption that the EU has included in its regulations does not address our concerns,” said the Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non Status Indians. “Inuit groups have told us that this will do nothing to protect their access to European markets, and past experiences with such exemptions have shown us that they are not effective.”

Canada’s request for WTO consultations is linked to an existing dispute. In July 2007, Canada launched WTO consultations with Belgium and the Netherlands on their seal product bans. Those consultations were held on November 11, 2007, but did not resolve the matter because both countries are members of the European Union. Canada will now seek to resolve the Belgium and Netherlands bans, as well as the EU ban, through its discussions with the European Commission.

For more information, please visit Understanding the WTO: A Unique Contribution and Economic and Cultural Value of the Canadian Seal Hunt.

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For further information, media representatives may contact:

Mélisa Leclerc
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of International Trade
and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Trade Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada