US Urged to Amend COOL to Comply with Trade Obligations

by 5m Editor
17 May 2012, at 8:38am

CANADA - Manitoba Pork Council is hoping the US will make the changes to Mandatory Country of Origin Labelling needed to bring it into compliance with its international trade obligations, writes Bruce Cochrane.

Last November the World Trade Organization panel investigating complaints by Canada and Mexico over US Mandatory Country of Origin Labelling determined the law affords imported livestock less favorable treatment than like domestic livestock and violates US trade obligations.

Earlier this month the WTO Appellate Body heard the US appeal of that ruling and its decision is expected in July.

Manitoba Pork Council general manager Andrew Dickson estimates the legislation has cost Manitoba pork producers 200 million dollars each year since it took effect.

Andrew Dickson-Manitoba Pork Council

Labelling like this over and above the usual type of labels you find like the company name and the price per pound and whether it's been inspected by USDA for quality and food safety, this is an additional label.

In processing plants it creates a real problem because now they have to stream all these different products coming into the slaughtering plant depending on whether the animal was born in Canada or was born in the United States, whether it was raised in Canada or raised in the United States, whether it was slaughtered in Canada or slaughtered in the United States.

So just to make life easy a lot of the big companies essentially said we'll just buy American owned product.

In pork, because imports are relatively small compared to their total market, it was easier for most companies not to bother with importing product and it became a barrier to trade.

It was just more costly to do business that way.

Producers themselves, because they can't get contracts with processing plants, started cutting back on buying for example weanling pigs out of Manitoba because the processors they sent the finished animal to didn't want them.

Mr Dickson says, assuming the Appellate Body upholds the original ruling, the hope is common sense will rule and the Americans will adjust the farm bill currently before congress so it enables the Americans to meet their international trade obligations.