Canada calls for W.T.O. dispute panel on COOL

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — The government of Canada on Oct. 7 requested the establishment of a World Trade Organization dispute settlement panel regarding U.S. mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL). The request follows two rounds of W.T.O. consultations with the United States that failed to resolve the issue and now will be considered at an Oct. 23 meeting of the W.T.O.’s Dispute Settlement Body.

"The U.S. COOL requirements are so onerous that they affect the ability of our cattle and hog exporters to compete fairly in the U.S. market," said Stockwell Day, minister of International Trade and minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway in the Canadian parliament. "That is why our government has no choice but to request a W.T.O. panel. This request demonstrates our ongoing commitment to resolving this issue and defending the interests of Canadian producers."

In response to Canada’s request, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said that while formal consultations with Canada on COOL have not been successful, current regulations in place provide information to consumers "in a manner consistent with our World Trade Organization commitments."

"Countries have agreed since long before the existence of the W.T.O. that country-of-origin labeling is a legitimate policy," Mr. Vilsack and Mr. Kirk said. "It is common for other countries to require that goods be labeled as to their origin. We hope to continue to work with Canada to resolve this issue amicably."

The Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 mandates COOL at the retail level for beef, lamb, pork, chicken, goat, perishable agricultural commodities, and certain nuts.

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