Professor Robert Howse (New York University): Animal Welfare, Public Morals and Trade: the WTO Dispute in EC – Seal Products

Does WTO Law permit states to adopt trade restrictions based on animal welfare concerns?

Robert Howse (New York University) will discuss the trade dispute between Canada, Norway, and the European Union.

Seals. Photo: Colourbox.

Norway and Canada complained against the 2009 EU seal regime, which prohibits the importation and sale of seal products. On 25 November 2013, a WTO panel issued its final report on the case. It concluded that

  • the EU import restrictions could be justified by concerns of public morals.
  • the EU could in principle apply an exception to the import restrictions for Inuit
  • the import restrictions were applied by the EU in a discriminatory manner which is incompatible with WTO law.

All parties have appealed against the panel report. The WTO Appelate Body will deal with the case.


Robert Howse is professor of International Law at New York University. His research focuses on globalization theory, international trade, investment, and financial law. He has repeatedly argued in favour of import restrictions based on public morals. You can read his comments on the panel report here.


All welcome!

Tags: Trade, Environment
Published Feb. 20, 2014 3:19 PM - Last modified Feb. 28, 2014 5:35 PM