DP10853 EC ? Seal Products: The Tension between Public Morals and International Trade Agreements

Author(s): Paola Conconi, Tania Voon
Publication Date: September 2015
Keyword(s): moral concerns, protection, trade disputes
JEL(s): F13
Programme Areas: International Trade and Regional Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=10853

The dispute in EC ? Seal Products 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.