by SUSAN MANN
It’s now up to the Americans to “try and sell” their Country of Origin Labelling law changes to the World Trade Organization, says Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.
Canada will be going to the WTO to argue that the modifications are “completely off the mark,” he says. Ritz made the comments today during a telephone press conference from Kazakhstan where he has been on a trade mission.
Today is the deadline the WTO had set for the United States to make changes to its law.
Ritz says the Canadian government is disappointed by the American proposal. “We thought the Americans were serious about actually addressing the shortfalls that were identified in their adjustment to the rule. Even their own industry has come forward and said this is going to cost them hundreds of millions of dollars to comply.”
The process to continue challenging the United States at the WTO takes time, Ritz says. But Canada, joined by Mexico, which was involved in the original challenge, won’t be stepping away “at this point. We have no intention of backing off or backing down. If the Americans think this is a game of chicken, well the cliff’s in front of them.”
About seeking retaliation, Ritz says Canada will do everything in its power “to make sure they understand that both Canadian industry as well as American industry is totally rejecting what they’ve come forward with today.”
Ritz says he’s disappointed but not surprised the United States Department of Agriculture stated today its amendments proposed in March are now in effect. “We still feel they’re completely not in compliance with what the WTO ruling and the appeal process instructed them to” do.
He drew a relationship between his current trade mission and the COOL issue by noting that as the United States makes market access tougher for Canadian products, it’s imperative the Canadian government gets out on trade missions “around the world and starts putting more market share in other than the American market.”
In July 2012, the WTO Appellate Body ruled COOL discriminates against non-U.S. born and raised livestock. An earlier WTO ruling also gave the legislation a thumbs down.
In a news release today, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association announced it has spent more than $2 million in legal and advocacy expenses to fight COOL.
The association says farmers have lost about $25 to $40 per head or about $640 million per year since the law was implemented in late 2008. It estimates the proposed changes will result in a $90 to $100 per head loss for Canadian beef farmers.
Martin Unrau, cattlemen’s association president, says the Americans’ statement that their changes comply with WTO “is absurd. It will require additional segregation by eliminating the ability to commingle cattle of different origins.”
The Canadian Pork Council also says in a press release today that the changes to U.S. COOL legislation may exacerbate “discrimination against Canadian livestock exports.”
Jean-Guy Vincent, the council’s chair, says in the release that the new rule “does nothing to reduce discrimination against Canadian feeder pigs and slaughter hogs.”
“The new rule will strip away any flexibility to comingle Canadian and US live swine at processing plants. This will make a very bad situation of the last four years much worse." BF