Canada and Mexico plot tariffs on US meat imports in labelling row

By Keith Nuthall

- Last updated on GMT

Canada and Mexico plot tariffs on US meat imports in labelling row

Related tags Mexico World trade organization International trade Wto Livestock

The Canadian and Mexican governments are preparing to impose retaliatory tariffs on American imports, including meat, over the US’s country of origin labelling (COOL) rules for meat and livestock. 

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has said these break its Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) with regards livestock from Canada and Mexico.

The two countries have issued a joint statement saying they have asked the WTO to hold a special Dispute Settlement Body on June 17. “Canada will request authorisation from the WTO to impose over [Canadian dollars] CAD3 billion (USD2.4 billion) in retaliatory measures against the US, while Mexico will seek authorisation for over USD653 million,”​ said Canadian trade minister Ed Fast and Mexico economy secretary Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal.

A proposal to repeal COOL have reached the US Congress, but this is opposed by US National Farmers Union (NFU), which – with 282 other organisations – has called on lawmakers to retain the law. A joint letter argued: “Cattle imports are higher today than when COOL went into effect and hog imports are rapidly rebounding.

"Ottawa and Mexico City disagree. They have successfully argued at the WTO that US COOL labelling discriminates against Canadian and Mexican meat and livestock producers by insisting labels must indicate when muscle cuts are from​:

*Animals born, raised, and slaughtered in the US
*Animals born and/or raised in a foreign country, raised and slaughtered in the US
*Animals born and raised in a foreign country, slaughtered in the US
*Are the product of a foreign country.

In their statement, Fast and Villarreal said the system causes Canadian and Mexican livestock and meat to be segregated from US-made and reared products and animals, damaging North America’s supply chain and being “harmful to producers and processors in all three countries”. Branding the system a “blatantly protectionist measure”, the ministers said they would “continue to call on the United States to repeal COOL legislation for beef and pork and comply with its international obligations”​.

Canadian retaliatory duties would include 100% surtaxes on American exports of live cattle and swine; fresh, frozen, chilled, prepared or preserved beef and pork; fowl offal; and other food and non-food products.

The Canadian Pork Council (CPC) chair Rick Bergmann saying he was “extremely pleased”​ Mexico and Canada had sought authorisation for retaliatory duties – noting the “WTO has affirmed Canada’s pork and beef industries’ right to fair market several times”​ when assessing COOL.

But the NFU-backed letter asked Congress to stand firm, saying: “It is premature for the Congress to unilaterally surrender to sabre rattling from our trading partners.”

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