U.S. continues to discriminate against cattle imports

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The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) is dismayed that the United States (U.S.) has failed to comply with the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) deadline to bring the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements into compliance with the U.S.’s international obligations and eliminate the discrimination against imported livestock.

The WTO ruled last summer that COOL is in violation of WTO rules because the requirement that meat produced in the U.S. from imported livestock bear a different label from meat produced from U.S.-born livestock causes segregation, with additional handling costs inflicted disproportionately on imported livestock. This discrimination is costing Canadian cattle producers approximately $25 to $40 per head totaling around $640 million per year. These losses have been incurred since COOL was implemented in late 2008 and continue to this day.

“It is extremely frustrating that the United States is continuing to inflict these costs on Canadian producers,” said CCA President Martin Unrau. “USDA has demonstrated that they have no intention of attempting to end the discrimination and it is time they experience some consequences.”

Unrau is referring to recent statements made by Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and International Trade Minister Ed Fast that Canada would impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports to Canada if the U.S. does not comply with the WTO ruling. Today is the deadline set by the WTO and this morning, the USDA published a regulatory change that actually increases the discriminatory impact of COOL. USDA has indicated that the amendment will be effective immediately, but that enforcement will be delayed for six months to allow for industry education.

“USDA’s statement that their amendment complies with the WTO is absurd,” said Unrau. “It will require additional segregation by eliminating the ability to commingle cattle of different origins.” The CCA estimates that this amendment will increase the impact of COOL to about $90 to $100 per head.

The CCA calls upon the Government of Canada to respond by fully pursuing its rights at the WTO as soon as possible. The CCA is also is requesting the Government of Canada to publish a list of retaliatory options to be imposed on the U.S. should they continue to ignore their international obligations and flaunt the WTO’s ruling.

“We will continue to fight COOL until a resolution that genuinely eliminates the discrimination is achieved,” said Unrau. The CCA has so far spent in excess of $2 million in legal and advocacy expenses to fight COOL.

Organizations: World Trade Organization, CCA, USDA Canadian Cattlemen’s Association

Geographic location: United States, Canada

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