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Norway submits sealing issue to the WTO

The Norwegian Government has decided to request the WTO to establish a dispute settlement panel in connection with the EU ban on trade in seal products.

Canada submitted a similar request on 11 February. A dispute settlement panel is likely to need a year to deal with the case.

“We consider the EU ban on trade in seal products to be in conflict with WTO rules, and would like a WTO dispute settlement panel to make an independent assessment,” said Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

Consultations with the EU on its ban on trade in seal products have not led to a mutually satisfactory solution. The Norwegian authorities have therefore today requested that the WTO set up a dispute settlement panel.

The EU seal ban regulation (Regulation (EC) No. 1007/2009), which bans all trade in seal products in the EU, apart from three very limited exemptions, entered into force on 20 August 2010. In practice, it stops all export of seal products from Norway to the EU.

“For the Norwegian authorities, this issue involves important principles, such as our right to sustainably harvest our living marine resources and to sell products derived from hunting and fishing,” said Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs Lisbeth Berg-Hansen.

Like Canada, Norway considers the EU’s ban to be groundless. Seal stocks are not threatened, and Norwegian hunting is subject to strict control. In November 2009, it was therefore decided that the case should be submitted to the WTO for formal dispute settlement consultations. Together with Canada, Norway held such consultations with the EU on 15 December 2009.

In connection with the entry into force of the ban on 20 August 2010, the EU adopted a regulation on its implementation (Regulation (EC) No 737/2010), which clarifies and further specifies the exemptions to the seal ban regulation and the certification system for products covered by the exemptions. In the light of this, Norway and Canada held supplementary consultations with the EU under the WTO dispute settlement system in December 2010.

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