OTTAWA, ONTARIO — Canada’s government launched a World Trade Organization (W.T.O.) dispute settlement process Oct. 7 over U.S. mandatory country-of-origin labeling (C.O.O.L.). Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, and Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, announced the move.

"The U.S. C.O.O.L. requirements are so onerous that they affect the ability of our cattle and hog exporters to compete fairly in the U.S. market," Mr. Day said. "That is why our government has no choice but to request a W.T.O. panel."

Canadian farmers and ranchers produce top-quality food, and they are facing unfair discrimination because of C.O.O.L. legislation, said Mr. Ritz. "This government is standing up for Canadian farmers and ranchers by exercising Canada’s rights under the W.T.O., and we are confident our challenge will be successful," he added.

A mandatory labeling measure in the U.S., C.O.O.L. requires firms to track and notify customers of the country of origin of meat and other agricultural products at each major stage of production, including at the retail level. The Canadian government charges these provisions impose unfair and unnecessary costs on integrated North American supply chains, reducing competitiveness in both Canada and the U.S. C.O.O.L. has created confusion and uncertainty for livestock industries on both sides of the border, the government added.

After two rounds of W.T.O. consultations with the U.S. failed to resolve the issue, Canada decided to request a panel earlier today, which is the next step in the W.T.O.’s dispute-settlement process.

In December 2008, Canada initially requested W.T.O. consultations with the U.S. on C.O.O.L., because it believed the measures were creating undue trade restrictions to the detriment of Canadian exporters. U.S. provisions at that time were being implemented based on the interim final rule. On Jan. 15, 2009, the Final Rule was published in the Federal Register, and it was implemented several months later on March 16. Canada held a further round of C.O.O.L. consultations with the U.S. on June 5.

Canada and the U.S. are each other’s largest agricultural trading partners. In 2008, bilateral agricultural trade totaled approximately C$37 billion ($35 billion). Reducing obstacles to trade has contributed to mutually beneficial supply chains, making both countries more competitive domestically and internationally, the Canadian government relayed.

Despite this latest move, Canada and the U.S. continue to have "a close and ongoing dialogue on C.O.O.L. and other issues," the government of Canada concluded.