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


  • Paola Conconi
  • Tania Voon


The dispute in EC – Seal Products raises fundamental questions about the relationship between publicmorals and international trade. Can WTO members impose trade restrictions based on moral or ethicalconcerns? 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 bannedseal products from being imported and placed on its market. According to the EU, the policy wasintroduced in response to European moral outrage at the inhumane killing of seals. The EU seal regimeincluded a series of exceptions. In particular, it allowed imports of seal products hunted by Inuit or otherindigenous 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 andeconomic issues raised by this dispute.

Suggested Citation

  • Paola Conconi & Tania Voon, 2015. "EC-Seal Products: The Tension between Public Morals and International Trade Agreements," Working Papers ECARES ECARES 2015-30, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  • Handle: RePEc:eca:wpaper:2013/216823

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Crowley, Meredith A. & Howse, Robert, 2014. "Tuna–Dolphin II: a legal and economic analysis of the Appellate Body Report," World Trade Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13(02), pages 321-355, April.
    2. Alan Yanovich & Tania Voon, 2006. "Completing the Analysis in WTO Appeals: The Practice and its Limitations," Journal of International Economic Law, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(4), pages 933-950, December.
    3. Tania Voon & Andrew Mitchell & Catherine Gascoigne, 2013. "Consumer information, consumer preferences and product labels under the TBT Agreement," Chapters,in: Research Handbook on the WTO and Technical Barriers to Trade, chapter 13, pages 454-484 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. Lothar Ehring, 2008. "Public Access to Dispute Settlement Hearings in the World Trade Organization," Journal of International Economic Law, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(4), pages 1021-1034, December.
    5. Levy, Philip I. & Regan, Donald H., 2015. "EC–Seal Products: Seals and Sensibilities (TBT Aspects of the Panel and Appellate Body Reports)," World Trade Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(02), pages 337-379, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bown, Chad P. & Crowley, Meredith A, 2016. "The Empirical Landscape of Trade Policy," CEPR Discussion Papers 11216, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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    JEL classification:

    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations

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