WTO Judges Agree to Consider COOL Dispute
As anticipated, Canada reportedly renewed its request that the World Trade Organization (WTO) establish a panel to resolve a dispute over U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) requirements. The request was accepted, and the panel is expected to issue its report sometime in the second half of 2010, according to a news source. The WTO can authorize those countries winning such disputes to adopt commercial sanctions against countries violating its rules.
Canada and Mexico have both challenged COOL, which requires U.S. meat processors to handle and label imported products separately, claiming violations of international trade agreements. Canadian meat producers reportedly contend that the rules have caused many U.S. processors to simply exclude Canadian products, and U.S. Department of Agriculture figures purportedly show that U.S. imports of Canadian livestock were 34 percent lower in the first half of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008.
Canada’s agriculture minister was quoted as saying, “We are confident that we will win our challenge.” The U.S. government released a statement expressing disappointment with the WTO’s decision and stating, “Nonetheless, we are confident that our measures provide information to consumers in a manner consistent with our WTO commitments.” COOL applies to a range of food products, including beef, chicken, pork, lamb, goat, wild and farm-raised fish, nuts, and other agricultural commodities. See Bloomberg.com, November 19, 2009; FoodNavigator-USA.com, November 20, 2009.