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Cases involving the EU

WT/DS400 - European Communities - Measures Prohibiting the Importation and Marketing of Seal Products

Last update: 07/07/2014

  • Complaint by: Canada
  • Complaint against: EU
  • Third parties:
    Argentina - China - Colombia - Ecuador - Iceland - Japan - Mexico - Norway - Russian Federation - United States
Summary of case:

On 2 November 2009 Canada requested consultations with the EC in respect of Regulation (EC) No. 1007/2009 of the European Parliament and the Council on trade in seal products. The Regulation was adopted on 16 September 2009 and was published on 31 October 2009. It enters into force 20 days after publication. The Regulation prohibits the marketing of products derived from seals on the EU market, and is enforced on the border. It applies to seal products produced in the EU and imported products. It does not apply to transit through the EU. The marketing prohibition entered into force on 20 August 2010. On 10 August 2010 the Commission adopted regulation 737/2010, which lays down implementing measures, which also entered into force on 20 August 2010. Canada has alleged that these measures are inconsistent with Articles 2.1 and 2.2 of the TBT Agreement, Articles I.1, III.4 and X.1 of GATT 1994 and Article 4.2 of the Agreement on Agriculture.

Relevant WTO provision:

Article 2.1 and 2.2 of the TBT Agreement; Articles I:1, III:4 and XI:1 of the GATT 1994 and Article 4.2 of the Agriculture Agreement

Current situation:

Canada and Norway launched WTO dispute settlement proceedings against the EU’s Seal regime in 2009, with extended consultations and with a panel finally composed on 4 October 2012. Two oral hearings accessible to the public took place in February and April 2013. On 25 November 2013, the WTO circulated the final panel report to all Members. Canada and Norway appealed the report on 24 January. An oral hearing open to the public took place on 17-19 March 2014 and the Appellate Body issued its final ruling on 22 May 2014. The Panel and Appellate Body rejected the claims of Canada and Norway against the ban itself. The Panel and Appellate Body accepted that the ban pursues a legitimate objective (public moral concerns on seal welfare) and is not more trade restrictive than necessary. However, the Appellate Body found that there was a de facto violation of the most-favoured nation treatment obligation (Article I GATT) because seal products from Greenland were treated more favourably than seal products from Canada through the exception for products derived from Inuit hunts. It found that this difference in treatment could in principle be justified under the exception of GATT (Article XX) for public morals but found that the EU had failed to design the legislation to prevent arbitrary discrimination and should have made more efforts to encourage Canadian Inuit to use the exception. The Panel also found that the discrimination resulting from the exception for hunts conducted in the framework of maritime resource management cannot be justified and thus violates Article 2.1 TBT Agreement as well as Article III:4 GATT ( without being justified under Article XX GATT). In reverse of the Panel’s findings, the Appellate Body rejected the characterisation of the regime as a technical regulation and therefore found moot and without legal effect all findings under the TBT Agreement.

Consultation:

Date of request: 02/11/2009

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