Processors call on US to abide by WTO COOL ruling

By Carina Perkins

- Last updated on GMT

Processors call on US to abide by WTO COOL ruling

Related tags: International trade, World trade organization, Beef, Livestock, Pork

US and Canadian meat processors have called on ministers to abide by a ruling from the World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body that the US is violating its international trade obligations by enforcing mandatory country-of-origin labelling (COOL) on meat products.

The American Meat Institute (AMI) has written to the Office of the US Trade Representative urging it to abide by the ruling, which upheld an earlier WTO decision that the COOL measure discriminated against Canadian livestock and violated WTO rules on several fronts.

“The WTO has spoken not once, but twice: mandatory country-of-origin labelling (COOL) violates our WTO obligations,"​ it said.

"While the law’s proponents continue to defend it and to challenge the WTO perspective, it’s time to ‘get over it’. Trade has been an essential part of the US livestock and meat industry’s success and our nation needs to lead in the trade arena by example.”

Industry losses

Canadian meat industry representatives pointed out that Canada’s cattle and hog trade has declined significantly since the COOL law was introduced in 2008, resulting in at least $1.4bn losses for the Canadian pork industry. They also urged the US to uphold the decision and amend the laws as soon as possible.

Canadian Pork Council (CPC) president Jean Guy Vincent said: “The Appellate Body has found that ‘the regulatory distinctions imposed by the COOL measure amount to arbitrary and unjustifiable discrimination against imported livestock, such that they cannot be said to be applied in an even–handed manner’. After all this time and after so much damage to our interests, this is such sweet music to our ears.

“CPC will be working with our American counterparts and other US stakeholders to help find a timely and effective legislated end to this irritant and its serious discrimination. The Appellate Body’s decision signals the need for change and should expedite favourable negotiations and a return to normalcy.”

Canadian Meat Council (CMC) president Ray Price said: “The imposition of bureaucratic, costly and unnecessary obstacles that make no contribution to food safety and are of little or no benefit to consumers jeopardises North American competitiveness in the global marketplace and weakens economic growth, investment and job opportunities on farms and in meat processing facilities across Canada and the US.

“Now that the WTO Appellate Body has announced its decision, we expect the US to quickly bring its meat labelling regulations and practices into full conformity with international obligations.”

Trading relationship

Canada and the US enjoy the largest bilateral trading relationship in the world, trading goods worth almost $709bn last year, with agriculture trade worth $43bn in 2011. When the US COOL laws were introduced, the Canadian livestock industry was forced to implement a costly labelling and tracking system. As a result, between 2008 and 2009, exports to the US of Candian feeder cattle were almost halved (49%) and exports of slaughter hogs declined by 58%.

Canada’s Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said: “We are pleased with today’s WTO appeal decision in favour of our livestock industry. Our government has always stood with our cattle and hog producers, in order to create a stronger and more profitable integrated North American livestock industry.”

Related topics: Meat

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