EC-Seal Products: The Tension between Public Morals and International Trade Agreements
28 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2015
Date Written: October 2015
The EC-Seal Products dispute raises fundamental questions about the relationship between public morals and international trade. Can WTO members impose trade restrictions based on moral or ethical concerns? Under what conditions can these concerns trump existing trade liberalization commitments? The dispute was filed in 2009 by Canada and Norway against the EU, which in the same year had banned seal products from being imported and placed on its market. According to the EU, the policy was introduced in response to European moral outrage at the inhumane killing of seals. The EU seal regime included a series of exceptions. In particular, it allowed imports of seal products hunted by Inuit or other indigenous communities, as well as imports of seal products processed and re-exported by EU producers. This article discusses the Appellate Body’s ruling in EC-Seal Products and some of the key legal and economic issues raised by this dispute.
Keywords: WTO trade disputes, public morals, animal welfare
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