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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Apr11/08)
29 April 2011
Third World Network

Panel set over EU ban on Norwegian seal products
Published in SUNS #7136 dated 26 April 2011

Geneva, 21 Apr (Kanaga Raja) -- The Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 21 April agreed to establish a panel, at the request of Norway, to examine measures imposed by the European Communities prohibiting the importation and marketing of seal products from Norway.

This was a second-time request and panel establishment was automatic. A first-time request was made by Norway at a meeting of the DSB on 25 March.

Argentina, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Iceland, Japan, Mexico, Norway, the United States, Namibia and Canada reserved their third-party rights to the dispute.

On 25 March, the DSB had established two separate panels, following two separate but related requests by Canada, to also examine measures imposed by the European Communities prohibiting the importation and marketing of seal products.

One panel was established to examine certain measures taken by Belgium and the Netherlands regarding the importation, transportation, manufacturing, marketing and sale of seal products. The second panel was established to examine Regulation (EC) No. 1007/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 September 2009 on trade in seal products (See SUNS #7117 dated 28 March 2011.)

At its meeting on 21 April, the DSB agreed to merge the second Canadian panel with the Norwegian one, as they were set to examine the same EC regulation on seal products.

The dispute brought by Norway against the European Union (EU) concerns certain measures affecting trade in seal products, comprising the "EU seal regime".

The measures at issue, which Norway collectively referred to as the "EU seal regime" in its communication to the DSB, were the following:

-- Regulation (EC) No. 1007/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council on trade in seal products, adopted on 16 September 2009 (the "Basic Regulation");

-- Commission Regulation (EU) No. 737/2010, laying down detailed rules for the implementation of the Basic Regulation, adopted on 10 August 2010 (the "Implementing Regulation");

-- Omissions to adopt adequate procedures for establishing that seal products conforming to the relevant conditions, set forth in exceptions in the EU seal regime, may be placed on the EU market; and

-- Any other related measures adopted by the EU or its member States that provide guidance on, amend, supplement, replace, and/or implement the rules set forth in the Basic Regulation and Implementing Regulation, whether adopted pursuant to these regulations or otherwise.

In its communication, Norway said that the EU seal regime imposes a general prohibition on the importation and sale of processed and unprocessed seal products in the EU, thereby depriving Norway of access to a significant market for its exports of these products.

"The EU seal regime contains certain exceptions that set forth conditions under which seal products may be placed on the EU market. However, these exceptions appear to discriminate in favour of seal products originating in the EU and in certain third countries," the Norwegian communication added.

According to Norway, the EU seal regime also includes elements of a system for certifying that seal products are in conformity with the relevant conditions for being placed on the EU market under the exceptions.

"However, the EU does not appear to have established adequate procedures for the assessment of conformity of imported seal products with the relevant conditions for being placed on the EU market."

As a result, said Norway, the EU seal regime appears to be inconsistent with the EU's obligations under the Agreement on Agriculture, the Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement and the GATT 1994.

In its statement at the DSB, Norway said that it is of the firm view that the European Union's Seal Regime is inconsistent with the EU's WTO obligations, including the Agreement on Agriculture, the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade and the GATT 1994.

Norway requested that the matter be referred to the panel established at the 25 March DSB meeting to examine Canada's complaint regarding the same matter.

In its statement, the EU said that it believes that the WTO is not an appropriate forum to discuss Norway's concerns with regard to the seals regulation and its implementing regulation. Unlike previous EU measures which have been the subject of WTO dispute settlement between Norway and the EU, the seals regulation concerns products that fall within the scope of the EEA (European Economic Area) Agreement.

The EU said that the parties to the EEA Agreement are bound by a special duty of loyal cooperation under Article 3 of that agreement. They should not seek to evade the application of the specific rules governing the "privileged relationship" established by the EEA Agreement by resorting to dispute settlement under a different agreement, which pursues a very different objective.

The EU said that it reserves all rights to pursue these matters under the EEA Agreement. +

 


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