US Businesses Plead with Lawmakers to Avoid Trade War with Canada

March 25, 2015 Updated: March 25, 2015

WASHINGTON—American business interests are pleading with the U.S. Congress to avert a trade war with Canada and Mexico.

Several people testifying in Washington today asked Congress to change the law that’s caused trade tensions with the U.S. neighbours.

They asked a House committee to change country-of-origin meat-labelling rules before the Canadians and Mexicans start fighting back with retaliatory tariffs.

Canada has already listed a series of products that could be slapped with tariffs, should it win the final round in a case at the World Trade Organization.

The retaliatory measures could squeeze Florida orange-juice makers, put a cork in California wine exports and even sour the sales of American chocolate.

Representatives of some of those industries testified today. So did Christopher Wenk of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—who warned that a dark cloud is forming over American exporters and it needs to be urgently addressed.

Proponents of U.S. country-of-origin rules say consumers deserve to know where their meat comes from. But opponents say the labels do nothing to affect safety standards, cause headaches for businesses, and amount to a protectionist measure that has slashed Canadian meat exports to the U.S. by half.