I was talking to a friend in the trade policy world this weekend, who told me that he understands that Canada will indeed be taking a WTO action seeking remedy for the EU’s ban on the importation of seal products, imposed because of the perceived cruelty of clubbing baby seals to death so as to get their skins off intact. Apart from the innate merits of the underlying argument (which you can discuss in comments to your heart’s content), this should (unless Stephen Harper loses his job in the meantime and the new government loses interest) really, really have some interesting effects on debates over world trade and globalization. Screw the turtles – when anti-WTO protest groups are able to run full page newspaper ads with adorable baby seal cubs, they’re going to be in a truly excellent position to wage public relations war. All the more so when the Canadian counterposition (that the seals are killed humanely) turns on the legal requirement that the baby seals should have stopped blinking before the hunters start skinning them. Perhaps Stephen Harper should have applied similar attention to the current state of the Doha round – I don’t see it moving around very much at the moment, but it does still blink occasionally. I wouldn’t be surprised if this turns out to be the coup de grace for trade liberalization this decade and the next (which does not, of course, mean that it would be the most important explanatory factor if trade liberalization grinds to a halt, merely one of the significant immediate causes).