OTTAWA, Ontario – Canada applauded the World Trade Organization's move to establish a compliance panel to review US country of origin labeling laws. The Canadian government requested in August that the WTO establish the compliance panel.
"Following through on our commitment to stand up for Canadian livestock producers by pursuing all options available to resolve this dispute, our Government requested and obtained the establishment of a World Trade Organization compliance panel on US Country of Origin Labeling," said Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. "Our government continues to aggressively lobby the US government to make a legislative change to finally put an end to mandatory Country of Origin Labeling that hurts producers on both sides of the border."
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 TWO 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.
Canada maintains that US COOL fails to comply with WTO obligations and that revisions to the law will do more harm to Canadian cattle and hog producers. Canada could seek authorization from the WTO to impose retaliatory tariffs on US imports if Canada prevails in the compliance proceedings. The Canadian government released a list of possible target products in June.
"Our government understands the importance of global markets to the families that rely on our world-class Canadian livestock producers for their livelihood," said International Trade Minister Ed Fast. "That's why we're standing up for producers and processors on both sides of the border by establishing a WTO compliance panel and why we continue to ask the United States to respect its international trade obligations and put an end to mandatory Country of Origin Labeling."
While Canada fights COOL at the WTO, meat industry groups are fighting the labeling law in US federal court. Groups representing US, Canadian and Mexican meat industry interests filed an initial brief as part of an appeal of a US District Court ruling denying a motion for a preliminary injunction against implementation of COOL.