On October 20, 2014, the World Trade Organization
("WTO") ruled for the third time that the United
States' country-of-labelling rules ("COOL")
contravenes trade laws by discriminating against beef and pork
exports from Canada and Mexico.
The U.S. COOL rules, which first went into effect in 2008 and
were amended most recently in 2013, require suppliers to inform
consumers at the retail level as to the country of origin of
certain commodities, including beef and pork. Specifically, the
most recent iteration of COOL requires that all imported packaged
beef and pork identify where the animal was born, raised and
slaughtered. This identification is costly and administratively
burdensome, incentivizing suppliers to source exclusively domestic
livestock from the United States, and thereby treating Canadian and
Mexican livestock less favourably than the domestic, American
The WTO's Appellate Body upheld a previous 2011 Panel Report
that this unfavourable treatment of imported livestock is
inconsistent with trade laws. The decision has been greeted
favourably by members of the Canadian agricultural community,
alongside both provincial and federal government officials. The
Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food, and
the Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, said in an
official statement: "Today's WTO
compliance panel's report re-affirms Canada's long-standing
view that the revised U.S. COOL measure is blatantly protectionist
and fails to comply with the WTO's original ruling against it.
The WTO's clear and consistent findings in support of
Canada's position effectively supply a clear message to the
U.S.: End this protectionist policy that creates economic harm on
both sides of the border and comply with your international trade
Despite the fact that this is the third ruling the WTO has made
against the United States' meat-labelling laws in five years,
the U.S. is appealing this most recent decision. Minister Ritz has
said that Canada may impose regulatory tariffs on some U.S. goods,
such as cheese, apples, corn, chocolate, pasta, frozen orange
juice, wine, spirits or others, as early next year, if Washington
does not comply with the WTO ruling.
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