GENEVA, Switzerland – Earlier today, the World Trade Organization’s Dispute Settlement Panel examining Canadian and Mexican complaints against US Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements as they affect exports of hogs and cattle wrapped up its second series of meetings.

Canada charged “the inflexible and protectionist nature” of the US rules compounded by interference in implementation has seriously impacted Canadian exports of feeder and slaughter hogs to the direct benefit of US competitors. Canadian hog producers were represented by Martin Rice, executive director of the Canadian Pork Council; Andrew Dickson, general manager of Manitoba Pork; and Patrick O'Neil, Ontario Pork's trade strategist. They were supported by CPC International Trade Counsel Peter Clark.

"Unfortunately, actions taken in both the United States Congress and the administration eliminated the flexibility in the final rule that would have made it less protectionist," Rice said.

Dickson added, "On balance, the third-country interveners supported the proposition that COOL was not WTO-consistent. Live exports are essential to the health of the Canadian hog industry. For Manitoba, they are essential. I am encouraged by the Canadian team's performance. We expect a speedy favorable finding and that we can get the border back to normal soon."

O'Neil said he was pleased with the week and the strong performance of the Canadian government team. "We wanted to make a contribution and we were able to," he added. "This was a very facts-based case and it has been a very satisfying experience developing the facts base with the government lawyers and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada experts to develop a comprehensive and persuasive case."

"The formal meetings are over – and Canada's summation was concise but complete and compelling,” Clark said. “The government/industry team now needs to answer numerous, very detailed and very difficult questions from the panel.

“We should have a decision by summer," he added. "This dispute has broad implications – the EU is developing a new, very extensive regime. It could seriously erode market access benefits under CETA [Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement]. If the panel does not clearly condemn the protectionist abuses of the US COOL measures, Country-of-Origin Labeling could become one of the new non-tariff measures of choice."

The Canadian Pork Council and its members, together with the Government of Canada and the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, have been struggling with COOL since its inception in the 2002 Farm Bill, said Jurgen Preugschas, CPC president, “We are pleased to see signs of real progress in having our concerns recognized and addressed," he added.