Canada to Re-Instate WTO Challenge to COOL

CANADA - The federal agriculture minister says Canada is prepared to resurrect its World Trade Organization challenge to US Mandatory Country of Origin Labelling rules once such action becomes necessary, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 9 March 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

Following the mid-January release of the final rule for US Mandatory Country of Origin Labelling the government of Canada shelved its request for formal consultations with the US over the legislation under the World Trade Organization dispute setting mechanism.

In the wake of United States agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack's subsequent request for additional voluntary labelling measures, that go beyond the requirements outlined in the final rule, several Canadian agricultural organizations have called on Ottawa to re-initiate that challenge.

Agriculture minister Gerry Ritz acknowledges comments regarding additional "voluntary labelling" are causing uncertainty and concern for livestock industries on both sides of the border.

Gerry Ritz-Canadian Agriculture Minister

What we've asked industry to do is give us some quantifiable results showing where contracts have been denied, they haven't been fulfilled.

We're starting to see huge differentials, more so than historical differentials in the value of Canadian beef as opposed to US beef.

There is always some but we're seeing that scale widen.

We are starting to get quite a number of those types of things happening.

Of course here in Manitoba it's all about weanling pork and we're seeing those results.

We are in, as I said, constant contact with Vilsack's office.

I know my office was in discussions with his, I am lining up face to face meetings with secretary Vilsack just as soon as I can possibly get away from a minority government situation as we have and will continue discussions.

At the same time we are more than ready to move forward with the WTO challenge to the next steps.

Mr Ritz says the agriculture secretary's request for voluntary labelling measures is causing more anxiety than even he thought it might.

He notes, having said that, Canada's challenge is idling at the curb waiting to go and will move forward when the time is right.

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