© Copyright AgMedia Inc
by SUSAN MANN
Canada’s trade challenge of the U.S. Country-of-Origin Labeling laws proceeds even if the current Conservative government fails, say two Cabinet ministers.
“Once it’s filed, it’s filed,” International Trade Minister Stockwell Day told reporters Monday. “It has been filed so it will move ahead regardless of what’s happening at the political level.”
Day was referring to the coalition between the Liberals and NDP and supported by the Bloc Quebecois that’s planning to oust the Conservatives and form a government with Liberal Leader Stephane Dion as Prime Minister.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz echoed Day’s comments. “This work goes on regardless of the goofy antics of the Three Stooges.”
The federal government asked for formal consultations after informal discussions failed. Day says Canada repeatedly asked the United States for “flexibility” in implementing Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) for meat products “to minimize any trade disruptions.”
The action is filed with the World Trade Organization. “We have no option now but to assert our WTO rights in defense of our exporters,” says Day.
Implemented Sept. 30, COOL requires beef, pork and other meats sold in U.S. stores to be labeled with the country where the animal was born. This means all U.S ranchers and meat packing companies must handle Canadian animals separately from U.S. animals.
The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association says COOL costs beef farmers more than $1 million a day in losses. Many U.S. meat packing plants refuse Canadian cattle to avoid sorting costs associated with COOL. The few who do process Canadian animals discount them. Some limit their acceptance to certain days.
“The combined impact of the lower prices for Canadian cattle with the increased cost of transporting them greater distances, plus processing on fewer days, is estimated to be about $90 per animal,” the association says in a press release.
Canadian meat packing companies’ prices are influenced by U.S. competitors and that means the $90-per-head loss applies to all Canadian cattle even if they’re not being exported to the United States.
It’s a similar story for pork. Canadian Pork Council spokesman Gary Stordy estimates a loss of $500,000 a week in weanlings and slaughter weight hog exports to the United States.
Both farm organizations applaud the federal government’s move.
Stordy says they were expecting that COOL would hurt Canadian hog and beef exporters. The federal government has been listening to producers and understands the new rules are creating a trade barrier. “We see this consultation process under the WTO rules as very positive.”
The Council hopes the consultations would result in the U.S. government acknowledging the COOL rules are a trade barrier under the WTO rules. “That may not have been their (United States’) intent,” Stordy says. “At the end of the day it’s affecting our Canadian industry and our integrated North American pork market.”
The United States has 10 days to respond to Canada’s request. Consultations must happen within 30 days unless both sides agree to a longer time. If they don’t resolve the issue, Canada can request a dispute settlement body to establish a panel.
Last year, Canada’s beef and pork exports to the United States were worth $4 billion. BF