WTO Set to Rule On U.S. Country-Of-Origin Labeling Requirements By Summer

The World Trade Organization dispute panel hearing a complaint by Canada and Mexico about U.S. country-of-origin labeling requirements for meat and meat products now says it expects to issue a ruling in the case by mid-2011.

The World Trade Organization dispute panel hearing a complaint by Canada and Mexico about U.S. country-of-origin labeling requirements for meat and meat products now says it expects to issue a ruling in the case by mid-2011.

The plaintiffs claim that COOL requirements lead to discrimination against their meat producers within the U.S. market, in violation of WTO rules requiring fair treatment between imported and domestic goods.

Canada's cattle industry also has argued that while WTO and North America Free Trade Agreement rules allow country-of-origin labeling, the COOL requirements fail to recognize that a transformation of an imported good (i.e., a live animal) into a substantially new product (meat) results in that substantially new product acquiring the origin of the country where the transformation occurs.

The Canadian industry also claims it has lost more than $250 million in lower cattle prices and increased costs due to the COOL requirements.

Canada and Mexico secured the establishment of the WTO panel in November 2009, with the three members of the panel appointed in May 2010. 

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