Photo: UN Norway.Photo: UN Norway

Final Decision in the Seals Dispute

Last updated: 27.05.2014 // The World Trade Organization’s Appellate Body has finally concluded that the EU regulation on trade in seal products is inconsistent with key provisions of WTO legislation.

‘We are pleased that the Appellate Body has concluded that EU rules for trade in seal products violate the fundamental principle of WTO legislation on non-discrimination, even though we have not won support for all our arguments. We are also pleased that the Appellate Body has concluded that the EU seal regime cannot be justified on the basis of the public morals exception,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

In the seals dispute, Norway has emphasised that its sealing is managed responsibly, based on biological recommendations for sustainable hunting quotas and stringent animal welfare rules. It has therefore been important for Norway to have an objective assessment of whether or not the EU seal regime introduced in 2010 is inconsistent with the EU’s obligations under WTO rules.  

The EU seal regime could set a serious precedent for trade in products from resources that are harvested in a responsible and sustainable manner.

‘It has now been established that the EU cannot introduce arbitrary measures in this way. I now expect the EU to repeal the regulation,’ said Minister of Fisheries Elisabeth Aspaker.

At the request of Norway and Canada, the WTO established a dispute settlement panel in April 2011. The EU regulation on trade in seal products sets very strict requirements.  Norwegian seal products do not meet these requirements, and they have therefore not been on the market in the EU since the regulation entered into force in 2010. On 24 January this year, Norway filed a notice of appeal regarding certain aspects of the WTO panel’s report.

For more information on the seals dispute (in Norwegian only), see  

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