Several U.S. Democrats want COOL to be part of the USMCA
By Diego Flammini
Alberta’s government has responded to U.S. politicians who want to restore Country of Origin labeling (COOL).
“The members of Congress pushing this need to realize it isn’t something industry in Canada or the U.S. want to revisit,” Devin Dreeshen, Alberta’s minister of ag and forestry, said in a statement Friday. “It isn’t consistent with American trade obligations, and it isn’t good for farmers in either country who want a fair and predictable trade relationship.”
Alberta’s trade minister also weighed in on the issue.
“American and Canadian consumers benefit immensely from the current agricultural trade between our two nations,” Tanya Fir said in a statement.. “Raising barriers to that trade is bad for the economies of Canada and the United States.”
Last week, 27 House Democrats in the U.S. sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer identifying concerns about the pending USMCA between Canada, the United States and Mexico. To date, Mexico is the only country to have ratified the deal.
Reimplementing COOL measures will help protect consumers, the Representatives wrote.
“Mexico and Canada already have used trade rules to undermine the food labeling that America’s farmers and ranchers support and the transparency that consumers demand,” the letter says. “A final (USMCA) package must restore the COOL meat-labeling program passed by Congress and affirmed by U.S. courts.”
The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association is hopeful this issue won’t delay the trade deal’s progress.
“We’ve got a lot of very strong allies south of the border that are strongly opposed to this,” Dennis Laycraft, executive vice-president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, told Farms.com. “It’s one of these issues that seems to resurface periodically.”
When COOL measures are in place, however, they can have a significant affect on the beef industry.
“We went from 17 plants that would accept Canadian cattle to maybe seven literally in a day,” Laycraft said. “Those 17 were taking Canadian cattle every day of the week, and then those seven were only taking cattle one day a week.”
Canada and the U.S. have disagreed over COOL for years.
On Dec. 1, 2008, Canada approached the World Trade Organization (WTO) concerning COOL requirements set out by the 2008 Farm Bill.
In May 2015, the WTO allowed Canada to impose up to CAD$781 million in retaliatory tariffs because of COOL. In December of that year, the U.S. repealed COOL for beef and pork.
Canada and Mexico have retained rights to retaliation and can impose tariffs if the U.S. imposes COOL measures, Laycraft said.