The WTO fight between EU and Canada over baby seals.
I was talking to a friend in the trade policy world this weekend, who told me that he understands that Canada will indeed be taking a WTO action seeking remedy for the EU’s ban on the importation of seal products, imposed because of the perceived cruelty of clubbing baby seals to death so as to get their skins off intact. Apart from the innate merits of the underlying argument (which you can discuss in comments to your heart’s content), this should (unless Stephen Harper loses his job in the meantime and the new government loses interest) really, really have some interesting effects on debates over world trade and globalization. Screw the turtles – when anti-WTO protest groups are able to run full page newspaper ads with adorable baby seal cubs, they’re going to be in a truly excellent position to wage public relations war. All the more so when the Canadian counterposition (that the seals are killed humanely) turns on the legal requirement that the baby seals should have stopped blinking before the hunters start skinning them.
When foes of trade liberalization are able to make adorable baby seals the face of their cause, it’s hard to oppose them. This makes me wonder why the seal issue is being handled as a trade policy matter in the first place. In other words, why ban the import of seal products rather than simply ban selling seal products? Clearly the EU’s concern here is with the existence of a commercial market for dead seals rather than with the transnational flow of seals per se.
A heaven where they not only club baby seals to death in order to keep their fur intact so they can make coats for rich bastard-people with no moral compass. The European Community has placed a ban on the imports of seal products and Canada, trying live up to the ruthless and shallow regard for animal rights we have in this country is taking WTO action to ram their Satan Robes through the impasse.
Not that the WTO has ever much cared what “people” thought of their “ethics.” All I can say is that the plight of baby seals is one of those things that turns normal people into fringey animal rights activists and if you want to be in the fur business you should probably stick to land rodents.
This can only end in a handful of ways and all of them are pretty bad. Canada is already evil, win or lose. Nice one! The WTO can redeem themselves for their tuna decision back in the late 80s, but they probably won’t. Yglesias asks: Why ban imports if that can result in WTO action? Why not just ban the sale of seal goods? Let the seal pelts arrive to ports where no one is legally allowed to buy the product and the Canadians will still not kill seals since there won’t be a market for them. Perhaps. My guess is that this would still result in WTO interference as essentially being a backdoor ban. But at that point I’m venturing well outside my realm of expertise.
Julian Ku at Opinio Juris with an old post.
Forum at World Affairs Board