Following the European Parliament vote to ban trade in
Canadian seal products, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
calls upon the Federal Government to serve notice to the European Union
(EU) that Canada will immediately initiate a World Trade Organization
(WTO) challenge to the proposed legislation. The Government of Canada is
about to enter into trade talks with the EU at the Canada-EU summit on
trade. Now is the ideal time for the Federal Government to deliver a
message that Canada will not conclude a trade deal with the EU unless
the legislation banning Canadian seal products is either rescinded or
made compliant with the WTO and proposed Canada-EU trade agreements.
Prime Minister Harper should also call on the President of the EU and
their member states to vote down the current legislation at the Council
"While this vote is certainly a blow to the Canadian
sealing industry, it comes at a time when the Government of Canada is
very well positioned to deliver a strong message to the European Union,"
said the Honourable Danny Williams, Premier of Newfoundland and
Labrador. "We are a proud member of this federation and the time has
come for the Canadian Government to stand up for our people and this
industry. The action taken today by the EU has no basis in science or
sustainable harvesting practices, and is punitive against our country.
The time for leadership is now while our Prime Minister is meeting with
EU leaders. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has a long
history of trading relationships with many EU member states and we are
extremely disappointed that they have taken this move which is
potentially so damaging to the sealers of our province. This is a
serious threat to an industry that 6,000 Newfoundland and Labradorians
depend on for their livelihood every year, and countless other Canadians
who are involved in this industry. In these times of economic
uncertainty, it is even more troublesome that the EU have decided to
penalize our country and our people and create unnecessary economic
hardship for individuals who participate in this humane and well-managed
The Federal Government�s own Minister of International
Trade has said that there is no justification for any ban on trade in
seal products. He said that if the European ban did not contain an
acceptable derogation for humanely harvested seal products, Canada would
defend its rights and interests under the relevant WTO agreements.
Furthermore, he noted that the Government of Canada was confident that
the WTO would find such measures violate the obligations of the EU under
the WTO. Derogation would have meant that Canada could continue to trade
in seal products subject to certification by an independent body.
"Our government has never understood why the Federal
Government has been so reluctant to challenge the EU in the face of this
legislation that clearly violates international treaties that the EU
agreed to with the Government of Canada," said the Honourable Tom
Hedderson, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. "Now that the European
Parliament has voted in favour of banning Canadian seal products,
certainly the time has arrived for the Government of Canada to get
serious about trade action through the WTO. Our government has been
asking the Federal Government to prepare for trade action against some
EU states, through the WTO, since April 2007."
Global leaders agreed at the G20 summit in London,
England, that now is not the time for protectionist measures, given that
there is a global economic crisis taking place. This was a view that was
supported by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and EU representatives. They
signed a declaration saying that no new trade barriers should be imposed
at this time of financial crisis. Certainly, this new legislation is
creating a serious barrier to trade for the Canadian sealing industry.
While the major markets for seal products are in
Russia and China, the implementation of this ban is a serious problem
for the Canadian sealing industry. While the legislation allows for
continued transshipment through Europe, seal products will be barred
from promotion within Europe.
The Canadian seal harvest is also important for
reasons of environmental management and conservation. The harp seal
population, at a record high of 5.6 million animals, is impacting the
recovery of groundfish stocks. Canadian harp seals alone consume 7
million tonnes of fish annually, which is equivalent to almost 10 per
cent of the world�s harvest of capture fisheries. Given that a number of
European nations have to engage in seal culls to limit damage to their
fish stocks, it is difficult to see how this ban will achieve the animal
welfare standards that animal rights groups have been calling for.
According to this legislation, it is acceptable to cull seals for
population control but not for commercial gain.
The provincial sealing industry has been valued at up
to $60 million annually, including primary harvesting and secondary
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