The Canadian government requested the establishment of a World Trade Organization compliance panel to review the U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law.
First conceptualized as part of the 2002 Farm Bill and later reworked in the 2008 Farm Bill, the labeling law calls for the country of origin to be identified on meat products sold in the United States. Canada and Mexico successfully challenged the trade distorting merits of the law within the WTO, forcing the United States to go back to the drawing board with an updated rule earlier this year.
The latest revisions call for more specific details, including origin designations for muscle cut covered commodities derived from animals slaughtered in the United States are required to specify the production steps of birth, raising, and slaughter of the animal from which the meat is derived that took place in each country listed on the origin designation.
“We had hoped to avoid having to again resort to the WTO to resolve this matter. However, despite consistent rulings by the WTO, the U.S. government continues its unfair trade practices, which are severely damaging to Canadian industry and jobs," according to a joint statement from Ed Fast, Canadian minister of international trade, and Gerry Ritz, Canadian minister of agriculture and agri-food. “Canada considers that the United States has failed to bring its COOL measure into conformity with its WTO obligations. We believe that the recent amendments to the COOL measure will further hinder the ability of Canadian cattle and hog producers to freely compete in the U.S. market."
The joint statement also noted that Canada will continue to consult with stakeholders as it pursues a fair resolution to the issue. Both Canada and Mexico have threated billions of dollars in sanctions. The Canadian ministers did state the government will not act on retaliatory measures until the WTO authorizes it to do so.
Meanwhile, eight organizations representing the U.S. and Canadian meat and livestock industries filed a lawsuit July 7 in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in an attempt to block implementation of the rule. The COOL lawsuit challenges the rule’s constitutionality, provisions of the Agricultural Marketing Act and administrative procedures with the labeling law that was rewritten after the World Trade Organization determined the original language to be trade distorting.
Plaintiffs include the American Association of Meat Processors, American Meat Institute, Canadian Cattlemen’s Assn., Canadian Pork Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Assn., and Southwest Meat Assn.
Attorneys filed documents Aug. 9 on behalf of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Assn., National Farmers Union, Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and American Sheep Industry Assn. seeking to intervene in the litigation.
The court has scheduled a hearing on the preliminary injunction motion for Aug. 27.