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Canada Sees No Damage Yet From U. S. Labelling Rule

Canada’s agriculture minister said Feb. 25 he sees no reason at this time to revive a trade challenge against the United States based on an early assessment of its application of new meat-labelling rules.

“Right now, they’ve gone with what we’re asking for,” Gerry Ritz told reporters when asked if he was concerned about the Obama administration’s new voluntary guidelines for implementing the country-of-origin labelling

The rule requiring more explicit labels on meat sold in U. S. grocery stores initially sparked a complaint by Ottawa at the World Trade Organization.

Canada agreed in January to put that complaint on hold after Washington made the rules more flexible.

Under the Obama administration, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asked the U. S. industry to add the extra information voluntarily to labels. He warned he may rewrite the rule to enforce the changes if industry does not comply.

The Canadian Cattlemens’ Association said Vilsack’s guidelines, if implemented, would prompt U. S. meat packers and processors to stop buying Canadian livestock and beef to avoid the extra cost involved in complying with the new rule.

The organization urged Ritz to reactivate the WTO challenge immediately.

But Ritz said he so far saw no evidence of damage done to Canadian exporters. “We’ll keep analyzing it day by day. If they start to get tough, if it starts to affect our exports in a negative way then we’ll go back harder.”

The WTO challenge is still an option, he said. “We’ll move forward with it as soon as we see some negative responses out of their application of the country-of-origin labelling rules.”

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