Canada seeks WTO review of EU ban on seal products

Fri Feb 11, 2011 12:15pm EST
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada asked the World Trade Organization Friday to set up a panel to resolve its dispute with the European Union over the EU's ban on trade in seal products, Fisheries Minister Gail Shea said.

The European Union closed its borders to seal products last year, when an EU court allowed the ban to proceed even though a Canadian legal challenge was still in progress.

"By moving ahead with this World Trade Organization challenge, we stand behind the thousands of Canadians in coastal and northern communities who depend on the seal harvest to provide a livelihood for their families," Shea said.

Shea said the challenge would not have a bearing on ongoing negotiations on a Canada-EU free trade agreement, which is expected to affect billions of dollars worth of trade.

Canada's seal trade with Europe was worth only several millions of dollars a year.

"Both sides have agreed that this issue will be resolved outside the free-trade agreement process, and will be resolved at the WTO," Shea told reporters outside the House of Commons.

"What Gail Shea is not taking into account is the fact that the European Parliament has to ratify any free-trade agreement," reacted Rebecca Aldworth, activist at Human Society International Canada.

Aldworth said the European Parliament passed the ban in the first place and takes it very seriously.   Continued...

<p>Sealers load up a sled with harp seal pelts on an ice floe in the Gulf of St. Lawrence near Iles-de-la-Madeleine, PQ, March 23, 2009. REUTERS/Paul Darrow</p>