Final COOL Rule Takes Effect Amid Uncertainty

CANADA - Canada's agriculture minister remains hopeful Canadian concerns related to US Mandatory Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) can be addressed through negotiation, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 16 March 2009
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The Final Rule for US Mandatory Country of Origin Labelling takes effect, as outlined in the January 15th edition of the US federal register, today.

However, US agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack has requested additional voluntary labelling measures that go beyond what's required under the final rule and indicated he will monitor compliance to determine whether additional changes will be needed.

On Friday federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz met with Mr Vilsack in Washington to discuss a variety of issues including COOL.

He says, while the secretary appears bullish on the way he wants the law implemented, there does appear to be room for negotiation.

Gerry Ritz-Canada Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

The sky is not going to fall.

Certainly the rule is being implemented as we had negotiated with the former administration.

Having said that, the fly in the ointment is this idea that for the next six months the Americans will use that period to assess whether a voluntary application of this is getting them to the end game they're looking for.

I came away from the meeting not really assured that they had an end game in sight.

That's a bit disconcerting that we go through six months of angst, is probably not a strong enough word but I'll use that, and not know at the end of the six months what will happen.

Producers should and do know that we will stand up for them.

We do not have the WTO challenge idling at the curb ready to go.

Mr Ritz is encouraging industry to quantify the negative effects of COOL and the response to Vilsack's request for voluntary labeling measures.

He plans to provide the secretary monthly updates on what we're seeing as a result of the legislation.

He says he'll be working with the American industry as well as the Canadian industry to get the data the secretary will need to show this is a wrong headed direction.

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