The deadline for the United States to bring its country-of-origin labeling (COOL) into accordance with guidelines set by the World Trade Organization has expired, and Canadian officials think the United States hasn’t done enough to bring its rules into compliance.
The United States first passed its rule about labeling in September 2008, and Canada immediately started negotiations among the WTO and U.S. officials to change the rule, which they saw as discriminatory toward foreign livestock.
The organization found, in July 2012, the new American rules were inconsistent with U.S. trade obligations to the WTO and set a 10-month period for officials to get their rules in order. The United States released proposed rule changes in March that modified some labeling provisions, but Canadian officials later deemed these changes unacceptable. The United States issued its final rule change Thursday.
In its final rule, U.S. officials require specific information about each cut of meat destined for America. Every single muscle cut now has to have a unique label, and every cut of meat has to include data on where the animal lived and how it was slaughtered.
According to information released by the Canadian government, “COOL is a mandatory U.S. measure that applied a burdensome labeling and tracking system throughout the livestock and meat supply chains in the United States. COOL led to the disintegration of the North American supply chain, created unpredictability in the market and imposed additional costs for producers on both sides of the border.”
Ed Fast, who serves as Canada’s minister of international trade and minister for the Asia-Pacific gateway, Thursday teamed together with Gerry Ritz, Canada’s minister of agriculture, to voice their disapproval of the new rules.
“Canada is extremely disappointed with the regulatory changes put forward by the United States today with respect to COOL. These changes will not bring the United States into compliance with its WTO obligations. These changes will increase discrimination against Canadian cattle and hogs and increase damages to industry on both sides of the border,” they said in a statement.
All options to combat the new rules are on the table, “including, if necessary, the use of retaliatory measures,” they went on to say. “We will continue to stand with Canadian cattle and hog producers against these unfair measures and we will not stop until we succeed.” - Jon Ross