Inuit org dumps on WTO ruling that upholds EU seal product ban

“The ban runs contrary to principles of fair trade”

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

Sealskin jackets made in Nunavut hang on display at this year's North American Fur and Fashion Exposition, which took place in Montreal in April. (FILE PHOTO)


Sealskin jackets made in Nunavut hang on display at this year’s North American Fur and Fashion Exposition, which took place in Montreal in April. (FILE PHOTO)

(Updated Nov. 25, 2:30 p.m.)

The World Trade organization’s ruling that effectively upholds the European Union’s ban on the importation of seal products is a disappointment, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami said Nov. 25 in a statement.

The WTO, in response to a challenge to the EU ban filed by Canada and Norway in 2011, found Nov. 25 that the ban is inconsistent with fair trade practices but is justified because it’s intended to address “public moral concerns.”

ITK said, however, that there is no reason to object to seal hunting on moral grounds.

“The ban runs contrary to principles of fair trade, and it is truly inexplicable that the WTO did not dismiss outright the EU’s Orwellian ‘moral grounds’ justification of this outrageous trade impediment,” Terry Audla, the ITK president, said.

Audla suggested, however, that there may be a tiny sliver of hope in the WTO ruling.

And that’s a finding that an exemption to the EU ban for Inuit and other indigenous seal harvesters is not equally available to all Inuit or indigenous communities and is not designed in an even-handed way.

“The seal ban ‘exemption’ was not developed through direct negotiation with the Inuit of Canada, and the absence of any serious offer to negotiate a workable system of guaranteed access of Inuit seal products to EU markets compromised the EU’s unilateral efforts from the start,” Audla said.

“The only Inuit exemption that would have a chance of working would be one negotiated with Inuit to the satisfaction of Inuit.”

The Seals and Sealing Network also condemned the WTO decision.

“The WTO panel decision is hypocritical given that Canada has as high a standard as anywhere in the world for hunting wild animals — seals included. Yet European seals, wild boar and deer are hunted without any rules governing animal welfare or ecosystem management,” said Eldred Woodford, chair of the Canadian Sealers Association.

“What’s next? Beef? Pigs? Chicken?”

And Aaju Peter of Iqaluit said the continuation of the EU ban threatens the Inuit way of life.

“I have been trying to communicate to the Europeans for many years that these bans will hurt the Inuit. They are not listening. Any ban on any seal product anywhere hurts Inuit everywhere,” Peter said.

The European Parliament passed the ban in 2009. ITK, along with other organizations and businesses, attempted to overturn the ban in the General Court of the European Union but failed, with their latest appeal being rejected this past October.

In 2012, the WTO set up an international panel to hear challenges mounted against the ban by the governments of Canada and Norway.

The WTO panel’s 186-page ruling was issued Nov. 25.

In a statement, Trade Minister Ed Fast, Fisheries Minister Gail Shea, and Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said Canada will appeal the ruling.

“The WTO panel confirmed Canada’s long-standing position that the EU ban is discriminatory and treats Canadian seal products unfairly. However, the panel also took the view that such a ban can be justified due to some of the public’s concerns regarding seal harvesting,” the three minsters said.

“Canada remains steadfast in its position that the seal harvest is a humane, sustainable and well-regulated activity. Any views to the contrary are based on myths and misinformation, and the Panel’s findings should be of concern to all WTO members.

The WTO process is not related to the recent agreement-in-principle between Canada and EU on comprehensive trade agreement.

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