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WTO Hearing on Meat Labelling Dispute Begins [Feb. 18 and 19]

By Amanda Brodhagen,

The first day of the public hearing on the U.S. country-of-origin labelling (COOL) rule starts today at the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

Canada and Mexico, who brought the dispute to WTO, will argue that the U.S. farm legislation violates trade commitments, and discriminates against foreign livestock.

The countries bringing the case forward will attempt to get a prior 2009 WTO ruling that backed their position against the U.S. labelling law to stick.

First introduced in the 2002 farm bill, COOL  was amended in 2008, and took effect in 2009.The WTO ordered the U.S.  to change its legislation to meet compliance with international law in July 2012.

While Congress amended COOL in May 2013, Canada and Mexico argue that the changes made COOL worse. Stricter requirements were added, including forbidding the common industry practice of ‘comingling’ meat muscle cuts.

Canada had hoped that there would have been a fix to COOL in the 2014 farm bill, but Congress left it intact; despite vocal opposition from American livestock producers and processors, who fear trade retaliation. 

Canadian Federal Agriculture Minister, Gerry Ritz is on record saying that he is disappointed that U.S. legislators choose not to address COOL in the farm bill. He said the government would support the livestock industry at the WTO hearing.

The two-day hearing will determine the fate of COOL If Canada and Mexico succeed, the countries will be one step closer to retaliation. This step could take up to six months to complete.

Canadian pork and beef farmers estimate that COOL is costing the livestock industry an estimated $1.1 billion per year.

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