Considerably sooner than had been expected, the U.S. government filed an appeal last Friday with the World Trade Organization (WTO) of the October 20 compliance panel ruling that determined the country’s heavily-debated meat labelling policy unfairly discriminates against beef and pork exports from Canada and Mexico.
The decision by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to make a final appeal to the WTO comes after Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had indicated last month that the mandatory country-of-origin labelling (COOL) regulations could not be brought into compliance with WTO rules through any sort of “regulatory fix” by the U.S. Congress, a solution to the problem that some industry groups had been pushing for.
International Trade Minister Ed Fast and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz reacted predictably, saying the Canadian government was “deeply disappointed” by the USTR’s action to prolong the long-running fight over COOL, which they described as a “blatantly protectionist” policy. “With this delay, the United States is yet again preventing both of our countries from enjoying the benefits of freer and more open trade and is hurting farmers, ranchers and workers in the United States and Canada,” the ministers said. An official from the USTR confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that the appeal was filed, but declined to comment further.
Both Canadian and Mexican governments have threatened to retaliate against the U.S. if the issue is not eventually resolved to their satisfaction with tariffs on beef and pork in addition to a targeted range of American exports including cheese, apples, corn, ketchup, wine and spirits, cereal, chocolate, frozen orange juice, jewelry and mattresses. Authority to retaliate with trade sanctions has not yet been requested from the WTO, but Canada and Mexico would be in a position to do so next spring.