WTO panel to arbitrate COOL dispute

by Erica Shaffer
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Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says Canada remains firm in its intent to impose tariffs to compensate for Canadian livestock producers' financial losses because of COOL.

GENEVA – The international dispute over US country of origin labeling (COOL) has gone to arbitration. The United States asked the World Trade Organization’s Dispute Settlement Body to assess how much Canada can claim through retaliatory tariffs.

Officials representing the US before the DSB argued that the tariffs were in excess of any damages incurred by Canada’s livestock industry because of COOL. Canada plans to impose more than $3 billion in retaliatory measures against US exports to Canada, while Mexico is seeking more than $653 million in compensatory tariffs.

The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF), an organization that has supported COOL, applauded the US Trade Representative for pursuing arbitration. In a statement the organization said the USTR is “defending the United States’ sovereign right to notify consumers as to the true origins” of their meat products.

“In addition, during the five years that COOL has been in effect, the share of each consumer beef dollar received by US farmers and ranchers has been restored to a 20-year high,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. “In other words, COOL is reducing the control that multinational meatpackers have over our live cattle supply chain and so the USTR’s action is directly benefiting US cattle producers.”

Canada expressed disappointment at the move, saying the US is attempting to prolong the WTO process. Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a statement. “The US is out of options and retaliation cannot be avoided by drawing out this process.”

“In all previous rulings, ‎the WTO has found Canada’s economic analysis regarding COOL to be robust, Ritz added. “Our analysis was quantified by Daniel Sumner, a world-renowned specialist in agricultural economics.”

On June 11, the US House of Representatives voted 300-131 in favor of a bill repealing COOL requirements for muscle cuts of red meat, poultry, ground beef and ground pork.

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