* Canada Pork Council: trade retaliation if no U.S. changes
* Canadian farm minister says too soon to consider tariffs
* WTO ruled U.S. must make changes by May 23, 2013
By Rod Nickel
WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Jan 14 U.S.
country-of-origin meat-labeling rules have directly cost
Canada's 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 requirements.
The United States must bring the labeling rules, known by
the acronym COOL, into compliance with a World Trade
Organization ruling by May 23, 2013, according to a WTO decision
released 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 an estimate of damages on Monday. The council called on
Ottawa to impose retaliatory tariffs on imports from the United
States if there is no change by the WTO 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 has raised costs
for U.S. packers by forcing them to segregate imported animals
from U.S. livestock.
Some U.S. groups 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 had 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.
Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has soundly
criticized the U.S. labeling program, but said on Monday it's
too early to assume the United States will not comply with WTO
rules before the deadline.
"We expect that the U.S. will bring itself into compliance
with its WTO obligations by May 23," Ritz said in an emailed
statement to Reuters. "It is premature to speculate on
retaliatory measures at this time."
Nkenge Harmon, a spokesperson for U.S. Trade Representative
Ron Kirk, also said it's too soon to discuss potential Canadian
retaliation related to COOL.
"To determine our next steps, we are working with our
colleagues at (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and consulting
with relevant stakeholders, including Congress," Harmon said.
U.S. officials have previously said they intend to bring
COOL into compliance by the WTO's deadline.
The WTO ruled on June 29 that the U.S. country-of-origin
labeling program unfairly discriminates against Canada and
Mexico because it gives less favorable treatment to beef and
pork imported from those countries than to U.S. meat.
The Pork Council report does not address damages to the
Canadian cattle industry, or to Mexico's livestock sector.
Meat labels became mandatory in the United States in March
2009 after years of debate. U.S. consumer groups and some farm
groups supported the requirement, saying shoppers should have
information to be able to distinguish between U.S. and foreign
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 to post signs
that list the origin of the meat.