The Canadian Government has requested the establishment of a World Trade Organization compliance panel to look at recent amendments to US country-of-origin labelling regulations for meat products.
The move signals a new round in a dispute that has been playing for some time between Canada and the US.
The US food industry has long-objected to the World Trade Organisation’s 2008 COOL rules for meat products, insisting they are an unnecessary regulatory burden.
A complaint was brought before the WTO arbitration service by Canada and Mexico, highlighting the US’s failure to comply with the WTO’s COOL rules. In December the Obama Administration was given a deadline of 23 May to alter its labelling policy in order to bring it into compliance with the country’s WTO commitments.
The US subsequently changed its labelling programme, but Canada believes the US has failed to bring its measures into conformity with its WTO obligations and that the amendments will “further hinder the ability of Canadian cattle and hog producers to freely compete in the US market”.
“We had hoped to avoid having to again resort to the WTO to resolve this matter. However, despite consistent rulings by the WTO, the US government continues its unfair trade practices, which are severely damaging to Canadian industry and jobs,” said Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, and Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food in a joint statement.
“Our government, with the full support and active engagement of the Canadian industry, will continue to fight against this unfair treatment, which is also hurting US industry and consumers. We continue to consult with stakeholders as we pursue a fair resolution of this issue. To respect Canada’s WTO obligations, our government will not act on retaliatory measures until the WTO authorises us to do so.”
The USDA did not return a request for comment at the time of going to press.