Canadians Predicting Victory at WTO in Meat Labeling Dispute With U.S.

A successful Canadian challenge against U.S. country-of-origin labeling rules would have wider implications for international trade, according to a spokesman for the Canadian Pork Council.

A successful Canadian challenge against U.S. country-of-origin labeling rules would have wider implications for international trade, according to a spokesman for the Canadian Pork Council.

A World Trade Organization dispute settlement panel recently wrapped up its second series of hearings into Canadian and Mexican complaints against U.S. COOL requirements as they affect exports of hogs and cattle.

After those hearings, Canadian pork industry representatives said they were confident of victory in the dispute.

"On balance, the third country intervenors supported the proposition that COOL was not WTO consistent," said Andrew Dickson, general manager of Manitoba Pork, "Live exports are essential to the health of the Canadian hog industry.... We expect a speedy favorable finding and that we can get the border back to normal soon."

And welcoming "signs of real progress," CPC said the potential effects of a favorable ruling would go beyond North America.

"This dispute has broad implications. The European Union is developing a new very extensive regime. It could seriously erode market access benefits under CETA [Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement]," said CPC International Trade Counsel, Peter Clark. "If the panel does not clearly condemn the protectionist abuses of the U.S. COOL measures, country of origin labeling could become one of the new non-tariff measures of choice."

Canada's complaint to the WTO is based on claims that " inflexible and protectionist" U.S. COOL rules have seriously affected Canadian exports of feeder and slaughter hogs to the direct benefit of U.S. competitors.

With formal meetings now over, the Canadian team will now have to answer detailed questions from the panel, with a final decision expected by summer 2011, according to Clark. 

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