Canada claims victory over U.S. in beef and pork labelling battle

Watch above: WTO labeling decision a victory for Canada

SASKATOON – The federal government is once again claiming victory over the U.S. when it comes to country-of-origin labeling (COOL) laws on livestock from Canada and Mexico.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled against requirements forcing Canadian beef and pork to be segregated and labeled when it’s exported to the U.S. The organization ruled that it had a “detrimental impact on the competitive opportunities” of Canadian livestock in the U.S. market.

Monday’s ruling marked the third time the organization has sided with the Canadians against COOL.

“We once again have a ruling from the highest trade court in the world, that the Americans are in violation of their obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization,” said Federal Minister of Agriculture Gerry Ritz, who reacted to the news in Saskatoon.

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COOL was introduced in 2002 and was activated by the U.S. government in 2008. Since that time, minister Ritz claims the requirements have cost producers roughly $1-billion a year.

“Our government encourages American legislators to listen to the WTO panel, do what’s right for economies, and end this discriminatory process once and for all,” said Ritz.

Brad Wildeman, a beef producer from Lanigan, said the process of segregating the exported beef hurts Canadian business, because fewer companies want to deal with the extra work that the legislation brings.

“We make up about three per cent of their supply,” said Wildeman, referring to Canada’s share in the U.S. beef market.

“For the big major retail companies that would sell meat, they’re looking, saying we’re not going through all this cost for three per cent supply, we’ll just use U.S. and be done with it.”

Wildeman added that a drought in 2002, mad cow disease scare in 2003 and COOL requirements have contributed to hurting Canada’s beef production industry.

“When you add all those things together, a lot of people lost a lot of confidence in the industry, a lot of people have exited the industry,” said Wildeman.

“We have the smallest cow herd now we’ve had in some fifty to sixty years in North America,” he added.

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Ritz said he expects the U.S. government to appeal the ruling, which means a final decision could take months. In the meantime, the federal government has drafted a list of American exports that they would target with tariffs, if the U.S. government failed to comply with the WTO’s ruling.

“We will target everything from California wine, to Minnesota mattresses,” said Ritz, who added that the retaliatory measures could not be used during the appeal process, if the U.S. government decides to go that route.

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