April 21, 2011
EU-Canada Free Trade Agreement
In February 2011, the Canadian government formally requested a panel to challenge the EU Regulation on trade in seal products (REGULATION (EC) No 1007/2009 of 16 September 2009) at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Canada is seeking to overturn this groundbreaking legislation, which put an end to the trade and marketing of commercial seal products in the EU.
At the same time, the European Union is considering a free trade deal with Canada that would reportedly benefit Canada’s economy by billions of Euros annually. Humane Society International believes that Canada should not be allowed to benefit from free trade with the European Union while it so blatantly attacks European values and democratic processes.
Following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament is now required to ratify all Free Trade Agreements (FTA) negotiated by the European Commission on behalf of the European Union. Thus, if they are unhappy with any aspect of it, MEPs can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the EU-Canada FTA.
MEPs speak out
Some Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have already expressed their outrage at the fact that Canada has initiated a baseless WTO dispute with respect to the EU ban on seal product trade, while simultaneously seeking to broker a highly profitable trade deal with the EU.
A paragraph on the WTO dispute has even been included in a Motion for a Resolution [PDF] on EU-Canada trade relations, which has been proposed by the chair of the Parliament’s International Trade.
The vote on these amendments was due to take place on 13th April 2011, but has been postponed to a later date due to the Canadian national elections and the rescheduling of a visit by a delegation from the INTA committee to Canada.
Concerns voiced in Europe and Canada
HSI’s supporters recently sent nearly 6,300 messages to their MEPs calling for them to not support the EU-Canada FTA for as long as Canada refuses to withdraw its WTO challenge to the Regulation on trade in seal products. Thus far HSI has delivered these messages to the MEPs who are members of the Parliament’s International Trade Committee; the rest will be delivered at a later date.
And in Canada, Humane Society International/Canada broadcast images of the slaughter—and quotes from Members of the European Parliament—on a giant video screen outside the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement negotiations in Ottawa on Monday 11th April and Tuesday 12th April 2011. Watch the video that was shown
The HSI video displayed at the CETA talks in Ottawa contained the following quotes from Members of the European Parliament:
“As one of the 550 Members of the European Parliament who voted in favour of an EU ban on seal product trade, I am deeply disappointed by the Canadian government's WTO challenge. I hope Canada will reconsider this action, especially in light of the ongoing Canada-EU free trade negotiations.” - David Martin, Scottish Member of the European Parliament
“The European public achieved the EU law putting an end to the cruel commercial seal trade in Europe. Canada should respect the EU's decision and not jeopardise its relations with Europe, including the negotiation of a free trade agreement worth billions.” - Arlene McCarthy, British Member of the European Parliament
"The overwhelming majority of Canadians supported the right of the EU to ban its trade in seal products. Forcing Canadians to foot the $10 million bill for a WTO challenge against the ban doesn't sound like democracy to me." - Heide Rühle, German Member of the European Parliament
"In voting for a strong EU ban on seal product trade, I represented the views of the overwhelming majority of Europeans--and Canadians—who oppose this brutal slaughter. In challenging the ban at WTO, the Canadian government is acting in direct opposition to Canadian and European values." - Christel Schaldemose, Danish Member of the European Parliament
"I consider Canada's challenge to the EU ban on seal product trade at the WTO an outrage. The decision to install an EU ban was supported by an overwhelming majority in the European Parliament and is backed by millions of European citizens. This move thus evidences a complete lack of respect for European values and democratic processes." - Frieda Brepoels, Belgian Member of the European Parliament
"Canada and the European Union share a positive trade relationship by respecting each other's democratic processes. Canada's WTO challenge against the EU ban on seal product trade demonstrates a profound lack of respect for EU law." - Stephen Hughes, British Member of the European Parliament
"In the EU, we have chosen to ban commercial seal products. This is an ethical choice. Canada has no right to challenge this." - Dan Jørgensen, Danish Member of the European Parliament
“I support your struggle against the cruel commercial seal hunt with all my heart. Mahatma Gandhi said that the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated, and I say that the state of our civilization can be judged on how the animals are treated. Seeing the cruelty and suffering caused to seals that are slaughtered in masses just to use their fur for vain reasons such as fashion, is distressingly representative of the prevalent values of materialism and commercialism in our Western culture.” - Eva-Britt Svensson, Swedish Member of the European Parliament