U.S. ‘intransigence’ continues in WTO COOL hearing: officials

The U.S. government’s defense of its country-of-origin labelling (COOL) rule still shows “blatant protectionism and intransigence” according to Canadian officials at what’s expected to be the law’s last appearance before the World Trade Organization (WTO).

U.S., Canadian and Mexican officials appeared Tuesday in Geneva before the WTO Appellate Body, where the U.S. hopes to overturn previous rulings against COOL by the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB), Appellate Body and DSB compliance panel.

“It’s very key that we win on this case, because it’ll have long-term implications for other measures that other countries might be thinking of trying to put into place to protect their producers from competition from countries like Canada,” Andrew Dickson, general manager with the Manitoba Pork Council, said Tuesday from Geneva on the industry program Farmscape.

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“This is a very complicated process and the Canadian team performed very well in making our case and answering many complex questions,” Canadian Pork Council chairman Rick Bergmann said in a separate release Tuesday.

The Appellate Body panel is expected to bring down a ruling in late April or early May, the pork council said. If the U.S. loses this appeal, Canada and Mexico will be in a position to launch the process toward retaliatory tariffs on chosen U.S. imports.

That process is expected to take time, Dickson said, which it’s hoped will give the U.S. government an opportunity to lift the aspects of COOL considered discriminatory to imported meat before retaliatory tariffs come into effect.

“Roughshod”

If Canadian and Mexican tariffs on U.S. goods take effect, they’re expected to cost the U.S. economy upward of US$2 billion per year, according to Howard Hill, president of the U.S. National Pork Producers Council, speaking Friday on Farmscape.

Passed by the U.S. government in 2008 and implemented in 2009, mandatory COOL requires country-of-origin labelling for beef, pork, lamb, chicken and goat meat, and certain perishable commodities sold at retail outlets in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s revisions to COOL in 2013, in the wake of the first Appellate Body ruling against it, tightened COOL’s labeling provisions for muscle cuts of meat.

Citing previous WTO rulings’ findings that COOL fell short of its stated objective to provide consumer information, Washington now requires COOL-covered products’ labels to include even more specific information about where each production step (birth, raising, slaughter) took place.

Washington’s position, the CPC said Tuesday, is that “as long as consumer information is a legitimate objective, (the U.S.) can run roughshod over the rights of their trading partners.”

Bergmann said the “blatant protectionism and intransigence of the U.S. position was clear throughout (Tuesday’s) hearings.”

The council, he said, believes the Appellate Body, “which asked very penetrating questions to all parties, should now bring this to a final result.” — AGCanada.com Network

 

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