Canadian Trade officials Friday dismissed USDA changes to country-of-origin labeling standards as presented to the World Trade Organization, citing continued "unfair trading practices."
"Our government is extremely disappointed that the United States continues to uphold this protectionist policy (COOL), which the WTO has ruled to be unfair, and we call on the United States to abide by the WTO ruling," said Canadian Minister of International Trade Ed Fast and Canadian Minister of Agriculture Gerry Ritz.
The U.S. submitted changes to COOL late last month, just ahead of the May 23 deadline to comply with a World Trade Organization ruling that determined COOL policies negatively impacted trade.
Specifically, Mexico and Canada said the labeling rules, which allow the U.S. to list country of origin on certain agricultural products, were "technical barriers to trade."
Though the U.S. went through a series of steps to revise the COOL regulations, Ritz and Fast said the actions were not enough, and the country would prepare to launch the next phase of dispute settlement on the revised COOL rules.
The ministers also said if the policies weren't up to snuff, the country would "pursue all options available." As a result, the government has prepared an extensive list of commodities that it may use to retaliate against the U.S. The list is to be published as soon as possible in the Canada Gazette, as a way to formally launch the consultation process.
"Our government will continue to consult with stakeholders as we pursue a fair resolution of this issue through the WTO over the next 18 to 24 months. To respect Canada's WTO obligations, our government will not act on these retaliatory measures until the WTO authorizes us to do so," Ritz and Fast said.
Among the items on the extensive list: live bovine or swine, meat of bovine or swine, dairy and produce products – even wooden office furniture.
Long-time supporters of COOL reform, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said the retaliatory list "brings home real-world consequences of the USDA's adherence to (mandatory) COOL."
Though not opposed to voluntary COOL, NCBA president Scott George said it is to be used as a marketing tool, not a food safety program.
"MCOOL is not market or consumer driven and it does not fit within our international trading obligations," George said. "Our members have warned both the USDA and members of Congress that should this program continue, there will be a true cost to not only cattle and pork producers but to many other segments of the U.S. economy as well."
Despite opposition from NCBA and other livestock organizations, National Farmers Union has stood in support of the COOL policy, touting it as a tool for consumers to understand from where their food comes.
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