Ottawa is warning that it may take “retaliatory measures” if the U.S. doesn’t abandon its new country-of-origin labelling rules for meat products.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said the government is “extremely disappointed” with the proposed labelling rules.
“The proposed changes will increase the discrimination against exports of cattle and hogs from Canada and increase damages to Canadian industry,” Ritz said in a statement March 8.
Changes to America’s country-of-origin labelling rules proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) require muscle cut commodities to include information about where each of the production steps—where the animal was born, raised, slaughtered—occurred.
The changes are an effort to bring the USDA’s current labelling regulations into compliance with World Trade Organization (WTO) requirements. The WTO had found that the current regulations discriminate against Canadian and Mexican livestock imports.
“USDA expects that these changes will improve the overall operation of the program and also bring the current mandatory COOL (country-of-origin labelling) requirements into compliance with U.S. international trade obligations,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement.
Under the proposed changes, products from an animal born in Canada and raised in both Canada and U.S. and slaughtered in the U.S. would be labelled as “Born in Canada, raised and slaughtered in the United States.” Under the existing regulations, the labelling reads “Product of the U.S. and Canada.”
Ritz said the proposed changes fail to bring the USDA regulations into compliance with WTO obligations.
“Our government will consider all options, including retaliatory measures, should the U.S. not achieve compliance by May 23, 2013, as mandated by the WTO,” Ritz said.
The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) also says the new labelling requirements go against U.S.’s WTO obligations.
“In the CCA’s view, the USDA’s proposed rule, if adopted, will in fact increase the discrimination against imported cattle by adding labelling requirements and eliminating some of the existing mitigating flexibility, thereby significantly increasing the costs of compliance,” the organization said in a statement.
The USDA is seeking public comments on its proposed regulations until early April.
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