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Ritz Says WTO Challenge Continues

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz is scoffing at Liberal claims the Conservative government has abandoned its complaint to the World Trade Organization about the United States country-of-original labelling program.

Wayne Easter, Liberal farm spokesman, and Scott Brison, the party’s trade critic, said in a statement July 15 that an American publication called Inside U. S. Trade has obtained copies of letters exchanged between Ottawa and Washington on the COOL dispute. In it, Canada said it would not continue its WTO challenge of COOL, they said.

Ritz says his political opponents are behind the times. “The letters referred to by the Liberals became out of date last February once the U. S. administration added extra regulations on Canadian cattle exports. We continue to make the bottom-line message clear to our American neighbours that we will always stand up for Canadian producers and make sure they’re treated fairly under the WTO.”

The minister says his officials are working with livestock groups to collect data on COOL’s impact. “We’ll keep working with industry to analyze that information as we continue to build our case to defend Canadian producers.”

The government said in May it was officially reviving its WTO complaint. The government put its challenge, started last year, on hold in January when the former administration agreed to changes that didn’t discriminate against Canadian meat or livestock.

But then new USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack decided in February to add some voluntary provisions that would restore the kind of labelling requirements Canada opposed. Vilsack threatened to make his provisions mandatory if there isn’t sufficient compliance by the packing industry.

If Canada and the United States can’t settle their dispute, Canada can ask for a formal WTO dispute resolution panel that would issue a binding decision.

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