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Canada Requests WTO Panel on U.S. Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

(American Meat Institute)

The Canadian government has announced its intention to file for a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement process over the U.S. mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law that went into effect on March 16, 2009.

“The U.S. COOL requirements are so onerous that they affect the ability of our cattle and hog exporters to compete fairly in the U.S. market,” said Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway. “That is why our government has no choice but to request a WTO panel. This request demonstrates our ongoing commitment to resolving this issue and defending the interests of Canadian producers.”

COOL is a U.S. labeling law that mandates country of origin information, through signs, labels, etc., regarding certain fresh meat products, e.g. steaks, ground beef, and pork chops, as well as certain fresh chicken products that are sold in retail stores.  Meat and chicken products sold in restaurants, as well as processed products, are exempt from the law. 

The Canadian government is arguing that the provisions of COOL impose unfair and unnecessary costs on integrated North American supply chains, reducing competitiveness in both Canada and the U.S. Many on both sides of the border have argued that it has created confusion and uncertainty for livestock industries.

 “Canadian farmers and ranchers produce top-quality food, and they are facing unfair discrimination because of COOL legislation,” said Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board. “This government is standing up for Canadian farmers and ranchers by exercising Canada’s rights under the WTO, and we are confident our challenge will be successful.”

Canada’s request for a panel comes after two rounds of WTO consultations with the U.S. failed to resolve the issue. Panels are the next step in the WTO’s dispute settlement process.

The U.S. and Canada are each other’s largest agricultural trading partners. In 2008, bilateral agricultural trade totaled approximately $37 billion. Reducing obstacles to trade has contributed to mutually beneficial supply chains, making both countries more competitive domestically and internationally.

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