WTO Panel to Be Requested to Address US M-COOL

CANADA - The federal government has announced it will ask the World Trade Organization for a panel to resolve Canada's dispute with the United States over US Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labelling, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 8 October 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

US Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labelling came into effect 30 September 2008 and has dramatically reduced the volume of live cattle and hogs heading south.

Canada's request for a panel comes after two rounds of consultations with the US failed to resolve the issue.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says Canadian farmers and ranchers are facing discrimination and reduced prices as a result of the legislation.

Gerry Ritz-Canada Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

There are versions of this around the world.

The problem with this is it's mandatory, it creates unnecessary hardship which leads to costs and Canadian processors and producers taking less money for our top quality product because of the extra work involved.

We've been against this from day one.

It's been on the books in the farm bill for a number of years.

We've always said we would fight this at what ever level was required.

We've tried to do it and we were successful in the first go-round with the end of the Bush administration during the consultative phase of a WTO challenge.

We were able to get a couple of the labels combined which gave us technically a NAFTA label which recognized the integrity and the integrated nature of the North American market.

The new administration came in, they basically tore up that slip and went on with the actual letter of the law in a letter from secretary Vilsack to his people down there saying that he expected them to voluntarily measure up and if they didn't that he would make it mandatory.

Mr Ritz says most American producers and processors recognize there is strength in an integrated North American market place but their concerns have also fallen on deaf ears.

He notes US officials have indicated they still want to settle this dispute amicably and he agrees and doesn't want to see it dragged out any longer than absolutely necessary.

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