OTTAWA, Ontario – Acting on its vow to fight United States country of origin labeling laws, the Canadian government has again asked the World Trade Organization to establish a compliance panel to review US COOL.
In a joint statement, Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, and Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, said Canada would retaliate against the US unless authorized to do so by the WTO. However, the Canadian government and livestock industry are committed to pursuing "all options available" to resolve the trade dispute.
“We had hoped to avoid having to again resort to the WTO to resolve this matter," the statement said. "However, despite consistent rulings by the WTO, the US government continues its unfair trade practices, which are severely damaging to Canadian industry and jobs.
“Canada considers that the United States has failed to bring its COOL measure into conformity with its WTO obligations. We believe that the recent amendments to the COOL measure will further hinder the ability of Canadian cattle and hog producers to freely compete in the US market."
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 US domestic livestock.
Industry groups in the US have strongly opposed the regulation. In July, eight organizations representing US and Canadian meat and livestock interests sued the US Department of Agriculture to block the COOL rule.
Government officials in Mexico said that country would retaliate if the WTO finds the US government to be in the wrong. Mexico plans to suspend preferential tariffs for a variety of produce items, meat, dairy products and other commodities. Additionally, Canada released in June a list of 38 commodities that could be targeted for retaliatory trade duties. The list included a broad range of items, but mostly agricultural and food products.