WTO COOL Ruling Applauded

CANADA - Canadian Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives Minister Stan Struthers has welcomed the ruling from the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued this morning stating country of origin labelling (COOL) introduced by the United States government is in violation of WTO agreements.
calendar icon 22 November 2011
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"This ruling proves what we've known all along; these laws discriminate against Canadian producers and distort trade. They hurt our producers and businesses and have dramatically altered business practice in the formerly integrated North American market," said Mr Struthers.

"We've been there to support our industry through these challenging times and we'll continue to stand behind producers and ensure they are treated fairly as we move forward."

The ruling found that:

  • Canadian products were treated less favourably than US products,
  • COOL created unnecessary obstacles to international trade, and
  • COOL did not fulfil a legitimate objective.

The 2002 US farm bill created new mandatory labelling requirements for covered commodities (beef, lamb, pork, fish and shellfish, fruit and vegetables, and peanuts) sold at US retail outlets. In 2008, these requirements were enshrined in law.

As a result of the implementing regulations, US livestock-processing facilities were required to segregate Canadian and US production. This had a dramatic effect on Canadian live-animal exports, said Mr Struthers.

The Manitoba government, federal government and several other producer groups argued these laws contravened WTO agreements.

The US had been an important market for Manitoba's livestock producers, the minister said. Prior to COOL in 2007, Manitoba producers exported 4.5 million feeder pigs valued at $191 million and 1.6 million slaughter pigs valued at $178 million to the US In addition, 280,912 of the 516,600 head of feeder and slaughter cattle marketed in 2007 were destined for the US, representing a total value of $277 million.

Following the implementation of COOL, Manitoba hog and cattle exports sharply declined and these trends have continued to grow, said Mr Struthers. For example, in the first year of COOL implementation, exports of slaughter hogs declined 64 per cent from the same period in the previous year. Exports of feeder pigs were down 19 per cent over the same time frame. Similarly, exports of slaughter and feeder cattle from Manitoba were down 60 and 33 per cent respectively in the first year of COOL.

"We urge the US government to immediately implement the panel's findings. The US is an important and highly valued trading partner and expedited implementation of the ruling will strengthen our trading relationship over the long term," said Mr Struthers.

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