Date: May 05, 2007
Author: Jamie Baker
Origin: The Telegram

If Canada doesn't launch an official complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the Belgian seal ban, the Fur Institute of Canada fears other countries in Europe will be more likely to follow suit.

The Belgian ban on seal products was introduced in January, but only came officially into effect April 28.

The country was the first member of the European Union to ban the import of seal products, while Italy and Luxembourg have introduced temporary bans.

Fur Institute spokesman Rob Cahill says it is crucial Canada make a move to show other European Union members - who are on the verge of following Belgium's lead - that they take the seal ban issue seriously.

"We see other countries lining up, like Holland and Austria and Germany to do the same and right now our government has not initiated a world trade organization challenge," Cahill told The Telegram.

"Right now, all these other countries are watching Belgium, and they're wondering what Canada is going to do, " he said.

"Not issuing a challenge will be an indication to other countries that Canada is not going to do anything."

Cahill said there are several stages to launching a WTO appeal of such decisions.

He suggested that initiating a consultation at this point "we think is a no-brainer for step one."

Although he has received assurances from several federal government officials, Cahill contends there is resistance within the federal department of International Trade to going "all out" on a campaign involving sealing.

A spokesperson for International Trade could not be reached prior to The Telegram's deadline, but Cahill said pro-sealing advocates need to "get at the root" of any seal-campaign apprehension.

"We have been told by Loyola Sullivan, the fisheries ambassador, that Canada will do it, we've been told by the Trade Minister David Emerson that Canada will do it," Cahill said.

"But the longer they wait the weaker our position gets."

Cahill said his organization is pushing the importance of having the matter addressed with anyone who's willing to listen.

"We were told they would go,," Cahill said. "We're raising this at the prime ministerial level and we're also getting the government in Newfoundland on board."
 
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