WTO reaffirms Canada’s position that U.S. COOL measures are discriminatory

On May 18, 2015 the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled against the United States’ COOL policy for the fourth time. This decision reaffirms Canada’s long-standing position that the COOL measures are protectionist and discriminatory.

The WTO’s most recent decision is final and the United States has no further possibility of appeal. Canada is seeking authority from the WTO to use retaliatory measures on U.S. agricultural and non-agricultural products. Should the United States object to the Canada’s proposed retaliatory measures, the matter will be referred to arbitration. The arbitration process could take several months and no retaliatory measures can be imposed during this time.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Marketing Service (USDA/AMS) implemented a final rule effective May 23, 2013, to modify the labelling provisions for muscle cut meats covered under the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program.

This measure has forced the livestock industry in Canada and other countries that trade with the U.S. to go through a lengthy labelling and tracking system with an unnecessary paperwork burden and additional red tape.

Possible Government of Canada trade retaliation
Canada is calling on the United States to repeal COOL’s provisions against beef and pork. If a compensation agreement cannot be reached, Canada is prepared to react by levying a 100% surtax on imports of selected products from the United States if authorized by the WTO. Some of the products that may be targeted are: fresh meats, food products, chemicals, jewellery, metal products, and furniture to name a few.

For a list of items under consideration, please see the Canada Gazette article.

Details on the WTO’s report on COOL can be found on the WTO’s website.