by SUSAN MANN
The United States is unlikely to comply with an international trade organization’s ruling against its mandatory Country of Origin Labelling law by the May 23 deadline it was given, says a Canadian Cattlemen’s Association spokesman.
John Masswohl, Cattlemen’s director of government and international relations, says his opinion is based on the fact that the United States isn’t trying to comply with the deadline. In July 2012 the World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body ruled the Americans’ country of origin labelling law discriminates against non-U.S. born and raised livestock.
Last month the United States proposed changes to regulations for country of origin labelling but “that proposal does not bring them into compliance,” Masswohl says. “In fact it increases the discrimination and takes them (the United States) further out of compliance.”
Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz told officials in Washington D.C. during his trade mission earlier this week Canada would consider all of its options including extensive retaliation if the United States doesn’t bring its law into full compliance with its WTO obligations.
Ritz says in an April 9 press release the regulations continue “to have a negative economic impact on the Canadian livestock industry and we are standing with Canadian cattle and hog producers against unfair mandatory country of origin labelling in the United States.”
Masswohl and Canadian Cattlemen’s president Martin Unrau were with the minister during industry group meetings in Washington. But they didn’t attend the political meetings the minister held with U.S. politicians, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Since the labelling law became mandatory in the fall of 2008, Canadian cattle and pork producer groups have pegged their losses at $1.1 billion. Masswohl says for cattle the losses are $25 to $40 per head but the new proposed regulations could increase those losses to $100 per head.
It could be almost a year before Canada will be able to seek retaliation, Masswohl says. After May 23, Canada and Mexico could go back to the WTO and argue the United States hasn’t complied with the trade organization’s ruling. But if the United States implements the new proposed regulations, the country could argue it has complied because it changed the regulations.
At that point a WTO compliance panel would review if the United States has complied, he says.
“It’s a delaying tactic,” Masswohl says, explaining the compliance panel could take six to nine months.
Before Canada could seek authority to retaliate, the WTO would have to agree the United States has not complied, he adds. BF