NAFTA countries debate COOL harm at WTO

(Photo courtesy Canada Beef Inc.)

Canada and Mexico have made their case before a World Trade Organization arbitration panel on how much tariff revenge they’re allowed to impose on U.S. goods over country-of-origin labelling (COOL).

The WTO “has ruled four times that the U.S.’s COOL rules are discriminatory,” Canadian Pork Council chairman Rick Bergmann said in a council release Wednesday from the global trade body panel hearings in Geneva.

The U.S., he said, “needs to deal now with fixing the faulty legislation before allowing steep tariffs to be imposed on a wide swath of its exports to Canada.”

Canada and Mexico are both in a position to impose retaliatory tariffs on selected goods they import from the U.S. The WTO Appellate Body in May shot down the U.S. government’s final appeal of previous panel rulings against Washington’s mandatory COOL law.

Washington, however, filed in June for arbitration at the WTO, disputing the claims from Canada and Mexico that they were entitled to impose C$3.1 billion and US$713 million in retaliatory tariffs, respectively.

“Of course the U.S. is pushing back and saying that Canada and Mexico have grossly exaggerated their claims and they’ve used a different economic model to do their assessment,” Manitoba Pork general manager Andrew Dickson said Thursday on the industry program Farmscape.

Washington, he said, claimed in Geneva that Canada has experienced just US$43 million worth of trade injury per year from COOL, and Mexico has “maybe hurt to the point of US$47 million per year.”

Following this week’s arbitration hearing, a decision is due from the WTO panel by Nov. 27, the CPC said.

The Canadian delegation’s presentation to the panel “relied on facts, rather than hypotheses and assumptions which attempted to trivialize enormous harm COOL has imposed on Canada’s livestock industry,” said Bergmann, who farms at Steinbach, Man.

Canadian officials, at this week’s hearing, presented evidence showing Canadian fed hogs exports to the U.S. fell by more than 80 per cent following COOL’s implementation in 2008, which caused most U.S. processors to stop buying Canadian-born livestock, the pork council said.

“Severe reductions have occurred similarly for feeder pigs as well as Canadian cattle,” the CPC said.

Dickson said he hopes the U.S. Congress will respond by repealing COOL in time to avoid Canadian and Mexican tariffs. — Network


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