Heating up the COOL dispute

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and the Canadian Pork Council want Ottawa to up the pressure on Washington to end its discriminatory country-of-origin labelling regulations.

The World Trade Organization has given the U.S. until May 23 to amend its COOL legislation or face retaliation from Canada and Mexico.

“Canada still expects the U.S. to meet the terms of the WTO ruling,” Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said at a recent Canadian Federation of Agriculture meeting, but he admitted his government is aware of political manoeuvring in the U.S. to block the administration from complying.

He said that given the looming deadline, the only fix may have to be done through a regulatory amendment to the law by the Obama administration.

That would be insufficient and little more than a “delaying tactic,” both the cattle and pork producers say.

Ottawa needs to push the matter into the spotlight, said Martin Rice, executive director of the Pork Council.

“We need to do more to make people in Congress aware of the situation,” said Rice. “We would like to see more public messaging by the government about it. We prefer to avoid retaliation because that won’t help our industry.”

It’s estimated that COOL has cost the Canadian beef and pork sectors $5 billion since the law was enacted in 2008. Trade expert Peter Clark says Ottawa should consider slapping tariffs on goods coming from the constituencies of congressional leaders.

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