Will they, or won't they?

by Erica Shaffer
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NPPC says Canada likely to move ahead with COOL retaliation; others say new leadership might be persuaded otherwise.

WASHINGTON – Gerry Ritz kept his seat in the Canadian parliament, but the job of Agriculture Minister will go to someone new following Justin Trudeau’s election as prime minister. Some industry stakeholders believe the change in Canada’s political leadership won’t change its course on country of origin labeling.

In its Capital Update, the National Pork Producers Council said indications are that Canada will move ahead with retaliatory tariffs over COOL. “… In response to a pre-election questionnaire from the Canadian cattlemen’s organization, Trudeau indicated that, if elected, he would continue to pursue retaliation against the United States over the COOL law,” NPPC said. The council has opposed COOL and continues to push for Congress to repeal labeling provisions for beef and pork. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada
Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister-designate

But supporters of COOL believe new leadership in Canada represents a new opportunity to persuade the Canadians against retaliation. R-CALF USA urged the US government to offer Trudeau a concession in exchange for his support of US mandatory COOL. The group made its request in a letter to President Barack Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and US Trade Ambassador Michael Froman.

“Underpinning the letter is the group’s belief that Trudeau is more likely than his predecessor to respect the need of US livestock producers to differentiate meat products in the marketplace and the desire of US consumers to know where their food was produced,” R-CALF explained on its website.

Canada and Mexico are seeking more than $3 billion in tariffs against the US for failing to repeal COOL. The US House of Representatives voted to repeal COOL, while Sens. Debbie Stabenow and John Hoeven introduced a bill that repeals COOL and replaces it with a voluntary system. Groups like the National Farmers Union (NFU) have thrown their support behind the voluntary labeling plan.

“This is truly a compromise that doesn’t have a real down side,” said NFU President Roger Johnson recently. “Consumers who want to purchase labeled food will be able to do so, farmers who are proud of the food they produce and want to label it will be able to do so, and participation by food processors and packers is completely voluntary. With voluntary COOL, everybody wins…”

Meanwhile, the World Trade Organization delayed the release of its ruling to allow for translation. The report is now due for release on Dec. 7.

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