The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to ban trade in seal products starting in 2010. The measure is expected to become law with the expected approval by the Council of the European Union.
The EU accounts for about one-third of Canada's reported seal skin exports, according to the Humane Society of the United States. The US banned trade in seal products in 1972. Belgium and the Netherlands are among 11 other countries that ban the trade.
Canada may challenge ban
The EU measure, which found commercial seal hunting is "inherently inhumane," provided exceptions for Arctic indigenous people such as the Inuit, who do not hunt commercially.
Canada reacted sharply to the move, saying it would challenge the ban, and take the 27-nation bloc to the world trade body if the new law does not exempt Canada.
Canadian Trade Minister Stockwell Day told the AP news agency that it is important to separate the issues of a seal-hunt ban and a free trade accord. An EU free trade deal would mean billions of dollars and thousands of jobs, he said.
"There are always trade disputes," Day told AP. "We wouldn't dare to end free trade with the US, and put tens of thousands of people out of business over a dispute on a specific topic."