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COOL update after hearing in Washington

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association has released an update on U.S. mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL)


Washington, D.C. – The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) released an update on U.S. mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL).

On May 19, there was an en banc oral hearing in Washington that was well-represented by cattlemen from Canada.

There is no set timeline, says the CCA, for when the court will announce its decision on the case law at the centre of the dispute around free-speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The CCA says it’s involved in this litigation as part of a coalition of meat and livestock organizations in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. that filed a lawsuit July 8, 2013 seeking to strike down the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s May 23 revision of the COOL regulation. (See: “Canadian livestock groups join U.S. lawsuit,” July 10, 2013.)

Gerry Ritz, minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, says he doesn’t expect the U.S. to change COOL before the World Trade Organization allows Canada to implement its retaliatory tariffs. (See: “Canada turns the heat up on COOL,” June 10, 2013.) But a favourable court ruling could alter that, says the CCA.

Ritz was in Mexico at the time and spoke to media via teleconference. Ritz was to attend a tri-lateral meeting of North American agriculture leaders under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Ritz says he again told Tom Vilsack, the U.S. Agriculture secretary, that Canada is ready to implement retaliatory tariffs over COOL. The CCA says he also urged Enrique Martínez, Mexican Agriculture secretary, to publish a retaliatory list of potential tariffs against the U.S. over COOL.

The WTO compliance panel is expected to make its preliminary confidential report to the parties in late June, followed by their final report, again in confidence to the parties, about a month later, says the CCA.

The panel’s report will be made public only after it is translated, likely in September or early October. That decision is likely to be followed by an appeal. If this process continues fully to its conclusion, Canada could be authorized to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports sometime in 2015.

This latest stage of the WTO process began in September 2013, when the WTO granted the Government of Canada’s request to establish a compliance panel. The panel includes the same panelists whose finding that COOL discriminates against Canadian live cattle and hogs was affirmed by the WTO Appellate Body in 2012. (See: “USDA’s final rule on COOL discriminates against Canadian hogs and cattle,” May 23, 2013.) The awaited decision follows two days of oral arguments held in Geneva in February 2014, and extensive written submissions filed both before and after the hearing

 


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