No meat? Then no steel grinding balls

Country-of-origin labelled meat might get some strange bedfellows.

Does it seem odd at all that mattresses are on the list of items that might be targeted for tariffs in retaliation for the U.S. insistence on COOL, which the World Trade Organization has ruled unfairly targets imports?

So much for a good nights sleep — not that meat producers are getting any decent shuteye anyway, if they think about COOL close to bedtime.

Federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz announced the list June 7. It may or may not be implemented, and must be approved by the WTO, but it’s interesting to contemplate how some of these items might change American minds about COOL.

Let’s take ketchup. The Heinz brand is manufactured in Ohio and Leamington, Ont. If tariffs were applied, would it still flow through the grocery store to my shelf? Would I pay another buck for it? Since “there are no other kindz,” would we protest in the streets if we couldn’t get our Heinz?

Perhaps even more worrying is chocolate. People could be fighting at parties or falling down on the football field without their Snickers bars, if the company’s funny but strange advertising is true. (You’re not you when you’re hungry!)

Wine is another potential problem, especially on weekends. We may be buying Canadian, French or Argentine instead of American — although, now that I think about it, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Still, these last three are food. Other items on the list are beef, pork, cheese, apples, corn, maple sugar and maple syrup, pasta and cereal. It makes sense to retaliate in the same general markets.

Mattresses, though, seem a little off the wall. So do jewelry, stainless steel pipes, wooden furniture, swivel seats and my personal favourite, iron and steel grinding balls.

Ah, but there is method in the madness. As it has been explained to me, the point is to generate some intense feeling among non-food exporters who have a good, solid foothold in the Canadian market — such as mattress makers. The wine lobby, too, is quite powerful in the United States.

If they start to complain to their government about tariffs, the argument goes, perhaps the policy makers will listen and back off on COOL.

No idea if that’s going to work — or even if this fascinating list of items will ever see a tariff. But the logic, murky at first, is not as weird as it looks.

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