Date: July 31, 2007
Origin: Government of Canada

The Honourable David L. Emerson, Minister of International Trade, the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and the Honourable Loyola Hearn, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, today announced that the Government of Canada will seek formal consultations under the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement process to address Belgium's ban on the importation and marketing of seal products.

"This government believes that the Belgian ban on the importation and marketing of seal products is a violation of Belgium's international trade obligations under the WTO," said Minister Emerson. "We will work with the European Union and Belgium to seek a positive resolution to this issue."

"Sealing is an important way of life for many Canadians, including Inuit and other Aboriginal peoples," said Minister Hearn. "It is important that we pursue these consultations to maintain access to markets for all those involved in the sealing industry."

"We have continually conveyed our opposition to this ban through our embassy in Brussels and at the highest levels," said Minister MacKay. "It is regrettable that we have had to come to this point, but Canada's government will fight bans of this kind on all fronts—people's livelihoods are at stake."

Belgian legislation banning the importation and marketing of seal products entered into force in April 2007. WTO consultations would be a step toward encouraging Belgium to comply with its international commitments. If consultations do not settle the dispute, Canada could request the establishment of a WTO panel to adjudicate the case.
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