Canada to retaliate for US COOL

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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OTTAWA, Ontario – Canada's government is preparing to make good on its threat to retaliate against US country of origin labeling regulations.

The government released on June 7 a list of 38 commodities that could be targeted for retaliatory trade duties. The list includes a broad range of items, but mostly agricultural and food products. The Canadian government continued to express disappointment in the US decision to implement mandatory COOL in a statement attributed to Minister of International Trade Ed Fast and Minister of Agriculture and Food Gerry Ritz. But Canada won't retaliate immediately.

“When the United States failed to comply by the May 23 deadline, we said we would pursue all options available. Today, we are also releasing a list of US commodities for possible retaliation, to be published as soon as possible in the Canada Gazette, as a way to formally launch the consultation process.

“Our government will continue to consult with stakeholders as we pursue a fair resolution of this issue through the WTO over the next 18 to 24 months. To respect Canada’s WTO obligations, our government will not act on these retaliatory measures until the WTO authorizes us to do so.”

Under the revised COOL regulation, meat packers must label muscle cuts of meat with information about where each of the production steps occurred. The US lost an appeal of a World Trade Organization challenge brought by Canada and Mexico in 2012. The WTO Appellate Body said US mandatory COOL regulations violated trade agreements by giving less favorable treatment to Canadian cattle and hogs compared to domestic livestock.

The joint statement said: “Our government is extremely disappointed that the United States continues to uphold this protectionist policy, which the WTO has ruled to be unfair, and we call on the United States to abide by the WTO ruling.

“We are preparing to launch the next phase of the WTO dispute settlement process on the new US rule, which we had hoped to avoid by the United States living up to its trade obligations.

“The Canadian government, with the full support and active engagement of Canadian industry, has fought against this unfair treatment, which is also hurting US industry and consumers.”

Some meat items that may be targeted include:

• live bovine animals;
• live swine;
• meat of bovine animals, fresh or chilled;
• meat of bovine animals, frozen;
• meat of swine, fresh, chilled or frozen;
• cuts of offal, fresh or chilled, of spent fowl;

The list will be published in the Canada Gazette for the purposes of consulting with interested parties.

Scott George, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, called COOL a “failed experiment in boosting beef demand and a tremendously successful experiment in creating a trade barrier.” He added that the list of products “brings home the real-world consequences of the USDA’s adherence” the labeling regulation.

“NCBA does not oppose voluntary country of origin labeling, but it is a marketing tool not a food safety program. And as a marketing tool, it needs to be run by beef producers and processors, not codified into law or administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA),” George said. “MCOOL is not market or consumer driven and it does not fit within our international trading obligations.”

Our members have warned both the USDA and members of Congress that should this program continue, there will be a true cost to not only cattle and pork producers but to many other segments of the U.S. economy as well. This is too high a price to pay for a program that has proven it has no value.”
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