U.S. Senate inches closer to repealing country-of-origin labelling

Canadian federal trade and agriculture ministers say they are cautiously optimistic that the U.S. Senate will repeal country-of-origin labelling as part of an omnibus appropriations bill now being considered.

Speaking from World Trade Organization talks in Nairobi, trade minister Chrystia Freeland said she and other government officials are monitoring U.S. developments on the bill “hour by hour.”

“We strongly encourage the Senate to get the job done,” said Freeland today. “Repeal COOL.”

Agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay reiterated Canada’s long-held position that COOL must be repealed or Canada and Mexico will retaliate with tariffs on various U.S. products.

“Our goal is repeal. That’s what we’re working towards,” said Freeland.

The U.S. Senate could vote on the bill as early as Friday. The WTO is scheduled to provide Canada and Mexico with full authorization to retaliate on Friday as well, but Freeland said that could be delayed until Dec. 21, depending on how current meetings progress.

MacAulay said retaliation will remain on the table until COOL is repealed.

“It must happen,” he said.

Events this week are the culmination of four WTO rulings in favour of Canada and Mexico indicating COOL contravenes global trading rules.

The legislation requires beef and pork to be labelled according to the source animals’ place of birth and slaughter. The labelling requirement is deemed to have discouraged U.S. processors from buying Canadian and Mexican animals because of the extra expense it requires.

The WTO recently ruled that Canada could retaliate in the amount of $1.055 billion and Mexico in the amount of $228 million.

Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall said today that his government is also hopeful that COOL will be repealed via the U.S. Senate bill.

“It’s such a complicated sort of legislative process to try to navigate in the interests of any particular outcome,” said Wall.

“The repeal of COOL is what we wanted and we’re not home yet, but we’re really close.”

Contact barb.glen@producer.com

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