W.T.O. dispute panel reviewing C.O.O.L. law

by Bryan Salvage
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OTTAWA, ONTARIO — The Canadian Pork Council (C.P.C.), which represents Canada's 8,000 pork producers, is applauding the appointment of a three-member World Trade Organization (W.T.O.) panel to review Country-of-Origin Labeling requirements imposed on certain agricultural products by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.).

Canada and Mexico asked the W.T.O. on April 30 to appoint panelists to investigate whether new U.S. labeling requirements were a violation of international trade laws because they restrict market access and constitute a technical barrier, including to the movement of live swine into the U.S. market, according to the C.P.C.

"The North American pork market is highly integrated," said Jurgen Preugschas, C.P.C. chair. "Forcing U.S. pork processors to segregate Canadian animals and meat imposes unnecessary costs in an already difficult market with little benefit to the American consumer."

Approximately two years ago, the U.S.D.A. expanded its country-of-origin labeling requirements beyond fish and shellfish. The new law requires retailers to notify their customers through labeling the source of certain food products that include muscle cut and ground meats from beef, veal, pork, lamb, goat and chicken; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; ginseng; fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; and peanuts, pecans and macadamia nuts.

The Canadian government gave the U.S. ample opportunity to amend the C.O.O.L. requirements to reflect the highly integrated nature of the swine and pork industry in North America, according to Mr. Preugschas, who farms in Mayerthorpe, Alberta. "The Canadian government asked for the panel because it believes, as we do, that this is an unacceptable barrier to trade," he added.

The W.T.O. appointed Christian Haeberli as Chair and Manzoor Ahmad and Joao Magalhaes as panelists. All three have extensive experience in international trade matters. Hearings are expected to begin later this year.

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