The World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled in favour of Canada and Mexico in an ongoing dispute with the United States over country-of-origin labelling (COOL) on meat products.
The WTO released a report on Monday stating that the labelling rules unfairly discriminate against meat imports and give the advantage to domestic meat products. The WTO compliance panel however, also found that the labels do provide US consumers with information on the origin of their food, countering Canada and Mexico’s assertion that the labels do not serve their intended purpose.
“Today’s WTO compliance panel’s report re-affirms Canada’s long-standing view that the revised US COOL measure is blatantly protectionist and fails to comply with the WTO’s original ruling against it,” said Ed Fast, Canadian Minister of International Trade, and the Honourable Gerry Ritz, Canada’s Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. “The WTO’s clear and consistent findings in support of Canada’s position effectively supply a clear message to the US: End this protectionist policy that creates economic harm on both sides of our border, and comply with your international trade obligations.
“The US COOL policy hurts businesses and workers in both the US and Canada. The Harper government will continue to stand up for our farmers, ranchers and workers to bring this harm to an end.
“Canada is deeply disappointed that the US has so far been unwilling to make the changes required to respect their trade obligations. Canada will be watching this situation closely to ensure US compliance in accordance with the WTO’s clear ruling. We will continue to fully assert our rights to achieve a fair resolution to our concern, including seeking authorisation to implement retaliatory measures on US agricultural and non-agricultural products if and as necessary.”
In response, the American Meat Institute (AMI) and North American Meat Association (NAMA) released a joint statement:
“The WTO decision upholding Canada’s and Mexico’s challenge to the US COOL rule comes as no surprise. USDA’s mandatory COOL rule is not only onerous and burdensome on livestock producers and meat packers and processors, it does not bring the US into compliance with its WTO obligations. By being out of compliance, the US is subject to retaliation from Canada and Mexico that could cost the US economy billions of dollars.
“While the US has the option to appeal the ruling, we encourage USTR and USDA to instead work together with the industry and Congress to amend the COOL statute so that it complies with our international obligations and brings stability to the market. Such a change would help restore strong relationships with some of our largest and most important trading partners.”