WTO sides with Canada and Mexico: COOL protectionist, discriminatory

For the fourth and final time, the World Trade Organization has sided with Canada and Mexico in their challenge of the United States discriminatory mandatory country of origin labelling law.

The decision paves the way for Canada to place tariffs on U.S. imports in retaliation for the economic harm done to Canadian cattle and pork because of the mandatory country of origin labelling laws.

The ruling ends the eight year legal battle by Canada challenging the U.S. labelling law for violating the U.S.’s international trade obligations.

In a joint news release, May 18, Federal trade minister Ed Fast and agriculture minister Gerry Ritz issued the following statement.

“For the fourth time, the WTO has ruled against the United States’ COOL policy, reaffirming Canada’s long standing position that these measures are blatantly protectionist and discriminate against Canada,” they wrote.

“The United States has used and exhausted all possible means to avoid its international obligations, damaging our highly integrated North American supply chain and hurting producers and processors on both sides of the border.”

Canadian Cattlemen’s Association president Dave Solverson said: “Today is an incredibly important and historic day for Canada’s cattle industry.

“With a final ruling from the WTO affirming the Canadian beef industry’s right to fair market access firmly in hand, the CCA urges the U.S. Congress to repeal COOL on red meat,” Solverson said in a news release.

The CCA has spent $3.35 million fighting COOL since 2007, but the trade bill has cost Canadian beef producers millions in lost markets and lower prices.

The CCA also urged the federal government to move quickly to request WTO authorization to impose retaliatory tariffs on key U.S. exports. Canada has already drawn up a list of products that will face retaliation and estimate the potential retaliation to be more than a billion dollars, the equivalent suffering to Canada under the 2009 COOL rule.

The federal government said Canada would seek authority from the WTO immediately to use retaliatory measures on U.S. agriculture and non-agricultural products.

“Our government stands on the side of Canadian farmers and ranchers and we will continue to protect all hardworking Canadians throughout this retaliatory process.”

In a news release House Agriculture Committee chairman K. Michael Conaway said: “Once again, the WTO has found COOL to be non-compliant – a decision we fully expected. As retaliation by Canada and Mexico becomes a reality, it is more important now than ever to act quickly to avoid a protracted trade war with our two largest trade partners.”

North American Meat Institute president and chief executive officer Barry Carpenter said: ” Any action other than repeal invites retaliation from Canada and Mexico that could cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars.”

Ron Prestage, president of the National Pork Producers Council said retaliation by Canada and Mexico would be a “death sentence for U.S. jobs and exports.”

Canadian Meat Council president Joe Reda has called for the U.S. government to respect its international trade obligations.

“On four successive occasions an independent panel of experts has determined that the United States is in violation of rules that it helped create to ensure fairness in international trade,” said Reda.

“Seven years is much too long for a country to profit from ignoring the law.”

You can find the complete text of the WTO ruling here.

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U.S. loses meat labelling case; trade war looms

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