The heat is on COOL

by Erica Shaffer
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Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz
Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz is urging US lawmakers to repeal COOL or face retaliatory tariffs.

OTTAWA, Ontario – Canada is going on the offensive in its protest over country-of-origin labeling of meat products.

Government officials and industry stakeholders urged the United States government to repeal COOL during a press conference held in the House of Commons foyer. Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and International Trade Minister Ed Fast were joined by representatives of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and the Canadian Pork Council.

The World Trade Organization Appellate Body delivered its fourth and final ruling against US COOL regulations. The decision was a victory Canada and Mexico which have vigorously opposed the labeling law since 2008. US meatpackers also objected to the rule, but for them the ruling may be bittersweet.

In response to the WTO's decision, Canada intends to seek WTO authorization to retaliate against US exports. On the list: US beef and pork.

“The WTO has been clear — the United States administration must end its discriminatory COOL policy that is causing hurt to beef and pork industries on both sides of the border,” Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said. “Our government is now seeking authority from the WTO to impose retaliatory measures against United States exports. We will continue to defend the interests of our cattle and hog sectors while protecting all hardworking Canadians through this process.”

Additional commodities at risk of retaliatory tariffs include wine, cherries, pasta, corn, office furniture and mattresses.

Officials in Canada are urging US lawmakers to repeal COOL, arguing that Canadian beef and pork producers have seen their businesses damaged by the labeling law. The Canadian livestock industry estimated damages caused by COOL to be more than $1 billion annually.

“This is a significant victory for Canada’s cattle industry,” Dave Solverson, president, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, said. “With the unfair discriminatory nature of US mandatory COOL confirmed a fourth and final time by the WTO, Canadian cattle producers expect that either the US will repeal COOL or Canada will exercise its right to retaliate. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association thanks the WTO Appellate Body for delivering a clear and decisive final ruling that US COOL continues to discriminate against live imports of Canadian cattle and hogs.”

And it looks like the Canadians could get their way. Following the WTO ruling, US Rep. Michael Conaway, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said the committee this week will introduce legislation to repeal COOL for beef, pork and chicken. Sen. Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry also has opposed COOL and plans to introduce legislation to repeal the rule.

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