Ruling On US COOL Generates Cautious Optimism

CANADA - The Guelph-based George Morris Centre predicts it may take a couple of years before a preliminary WTO finding that US Mandatory COOL violates technical barriers to trade has any impact on the cross border movement of live animals, Bruce Cochrane writes.
calendar icon 31 May 2011
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Manitoba Pork Council

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US Mandatory Country of Origin Labelling, introduced in the fall of 2008, requires a range of consumer food products, including beef and pork, to be labelled according to its country or countries of origin.

In May of last year a World Trade Organization dispute settlement panel was struck to address complaints lodged by Canada and Mexico over the labelling law and that panel has ruled, preliminarily, that the law violates the technical barriers to trade.

Kevin Grier, a senior market economist with the George Morris Centre, notes producers on both sides of the Canada-US border have expressed opposition to the law.

Kevin Grier-George Morris Centre

Not surprisingly Canadian livestock producers are vehemently opposed.

They knew immediately what it was going to mean to them.

Some Manitoba weaner and feeder producers are out of business because of it because in the early days of COOL US finishers simply couldn't afford or didn't want to take Canadian pigs so it definitely drove producers in Manitoba out of business and the cattle guys the same idea.

It's been negative to us.

We knew it was going to be negative so we were opposed to it all along.

But interestingly US producers, the National Pork Producers Council was opposed to this as well, Cattle feeders in the United States were opposed to it and certainly the meat industry was opposed to it.

The last thing they want is not to be able to buy Canadian cattle and hogs.

The main ones that were in favor of it would be again cow-calf producers mostly in the northwest states and there's large numbers of them and they were successful in finally ramming this thing through.

Mr Grier suggests, while the WTO dispute settlement panel decision comes as good news, it won't be officially announced until July and after that the US will have a period of time to appeal the ruling so it is unlikely the decision will have any immediate impact.

He encourages Canadian livestock producers to support the efforts of their commodity organizations as they continue to fight the US legislation.

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