* Canada Pork Council: trade retaliation if no US changes
* WTO ruled US must make changes by May 23, 2013
By Rod Nickel
WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Jan 14 The United States'
country-of-origin meat-labeling rules have directly cost the
Canadian hog and pork industry more than $2 billion, according
to a report that could help determine retaliation against U.S.
exports if Washington does not change its rules.
The United States must bring its labeling rules, known by
the acronym COOL, into compliance with an earlier World Trade
Organization ruling by May 23, 2013, according to a WTO decision
last month. But citing no apparent movement by the U.S. Congress
since the original WTO ruling in mid-2012, the Canadian Pork
Council released its estimate of damages on Monday, and called
for Ottawa to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports to
Canada if there is no change by the deadline.
"COOL continues to cost hog and cattle producers tens of
millions of dollars every month and must be dealt with sooner
rather than later," said Jean-Guy Vincent, a Quebec hog farmer
and chairman of the Pork Council.
The labeling program has led to a sharp reduction in U.S.
imports of Canadian pigs and cattle, because it raised costs for
U.S. packers by forcing them to segregate those animals from
U.S. livestock. Some U.S. groups, however, have said COOL offers
consumers valuable information about the origin of their food.
The Pork Council's report, written by economist Ron Gietz,
calculated that the labeling rules cost Canadian farmers $2
billion in lost hog exports by the end of 2012, plus an
additional $442 million in reduced pork shipments and suppressed
prices for feeder pigs.
The report does not address damages to the Canadian cattle
industry, or Mexico's livestock sector.
The WTO ruled on June 29 that the U.S. country-of-origin
labeling program unfairly discriminated against Canada and
Mexico because it gave less favorable treatment to beef and pork
imported from those countries than to U.S. meat.
Spokespeople for U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and
Canadian International Trade Minister Ed Fast could not be
immediately reached for a comment.
Meat labels became mandatory in March 2009 after years of
debate. U.S. consumer and some farm groups supported the
requirement, saying shoppers should have information to
distinguish between U.S. and foreign products.
Big meat processors opposed the provision, which they said
would unnecessarily boost costs and disrupt trade.
The U.S. labeling law requires grocers to put labels on cuts
of beef, pork, lamb, chicken and ground meat or post signs that
list the origin of the meat.
U.S. officials have said they intend to bring COOL into
compliance by the WTO's deadline.