Canada to WTO: COOL is unacceptable
The Canadian government has requested a formal dispute settlement panel at the World Trade Organization to review their concerns with the U.S. government’s country of origin regulations for certain agricultural products.
The panel will be considered at the Oct. 23 meeting of the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body.
In the 2008 Food, Conservation and Energy Act, the United States mandated country of origin (COOL) requirements at the retail level for beef, lamb, pork, chicken, goat, perishable agricultural products, and certain nuts.
On Dec. 1, 2008, Canada requested WTO settlement consultations on the interim COOL rule, and Mexico similarly requested consultations on Dec. 17, 2008. Pursuant to a Jan. 7 procedural agreement, Canada committed not to pursue WTO dispute settlement until September, if the final rule contained certain flexibilities in meat labeling.
On Jan. 15, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s final rule on COOL was published. On Feb. 20, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the final rule would take effect as originally scheduled on March 16. Canada and Mexico sent a new consultations request regarding the final rule to the United States on May 7.
“We regret that formal consultations have not been successful in resolving Canada’s concerns over country of origin labeling required by the 2008 Farm Bill for certain agricultural products,” Vilsack said in a joint statement with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk on Wednesday.
“We believe that our implementation of COOL provides information to consumers in a manner consistent with our World Trade Organization obligations,” the Obama administration officials said.
“Countries have agreed since long before the existence of the WTO that country of origin labeling is a legitimate policy. It is common for other countries to require that goods be labeled as to their origin,” they added.
“We hope to continue to work with Canada to resolve this issue amicably.”