Canada ready for Canadian $1 billion sanctions against U.S. over labels

OTTAWA Tue Apr 9, 2013 5:03pm EDT

Clayton Colliou, a butcher at Bon Ton Meat Market, organizes choice cuts of Alberta beef in Calgary, Alberta, October 3, 2012. REUTERS/Todd Korol

Clayton Colliou, a butcher at Bon Ton Meat Market, organizes choice cuts of Alberta beef in Calgary, Alberta, October 3, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Todd Korol

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is prepared to impose sanctions of up to C$1 billion ($980 million) a year against the United States unless it complies with a WTO order to redesign its meat labels, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said on Tuesday.

The United States introduced country of origin labels for meat in 2009. Mexico and Canada successfully argued before the World Trade Organization that the labels were discriminatory and Washington has until May 23 this year to change them.

The Canadians and Mexicans want Washington to comply with the WTO ruling that it must amend its meat labeling rules. The labels right now identify where beef, pork, chicken and lamb sold in the United States come from.

The rules cut U.S. imports of Canadian pigs and cattle sharply because it raised costs for U.S. packers who must now segregate imported animals from U.S. livestock.

Ritz said Canada would consider imposing "extensive retaliatory measures" if the United States failed to act and noted Canadian beef and pork producers complained the rules were costing them C$1 billion a year in lost sales.

"We're looking for those kinds of dollars in retaliatory action. Should the Americans put in place the proper response to the WTO ... then this won't be required," he told reporters from Washington after talks with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

"As a country we are more than prepared to apply retaliatory measures to recoup that billion dollars," he said.

Last month the United States sought to address the dispute by proposing stricter rules for labeling meat but Ritz said the new measures fell far short of what was needed.

($1=$1.02 Canadian)

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Comments (7)
MikeyLikesIt wrote:
Do quality & control methods differ between the US and Canada/Mexico?

If so then I think it is beneficial to know where my food comes from.

Apr 09, 2013 5:18pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
areddy831 wrote:
@MikeyLikesIt

Agreed, I really don’t understand how stating factual information could be a contentious issue. How is it discriminatory? If all suppliers have to comply, including those in the US, what’s the big deal? How do EU rules on GMO labeling (much more dubious since “genetic modification” is so relative) pass muster but this doesn’t?

Apr 09, 2013 5:32pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Burns0011 wrote:
Knowing and being able to track where meat comes from is an important part of health and safety. I don’t see the problem here.

And of course they’re ‘discriminatory’ labels. Discriminatory also means “capable of making fine distinctions”.

Apr 09, 2013 5:35pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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