U.S. must comply with WTO meat-labeling ruling by May

Tue Dec 4, 2012 11:12pm IST

(Reuters) - The United States must bring its country-of-origin meat labeling rules into compliance with a earlier World Trade Organization ruling by May 23, 2013, according to a WTO decision on Tuesday, the Canadian government said.

The WTO ruled on June 29 that the U.S. country-of-origin labeling program, known as COOL, unfairly discriminated against Canada and Mexico because it gave less favorable treatment to beef and pork imported from those countries than to U.S. meat.

That decision gave the United States an unspecified amount of time to comply.

The labeling program has led to a sharp reduction in U.S. imports of Canadian pigs and cattle, because it raised costs for U.S. packers by forcing them to segregate those animals from U.S. livestock. Some U.S. groups, however, have said COOL offers consumers valuable information about the origin of their food.

"We expect that the U.S. will bring itself into compliance with its WTO obligations by May 2013 as determined by the arbitrator for the benefit of producers on both sides of the border," Canadian International Trade Minister Ed Fast and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a joint statement.

"We are particularly pleased that the arbitrator determined a reasonable period of time close to that proposed by Canada and Mexico, as opposed to the much longer period suggested by the United States."

According to the Canadian ministers, the United States asked that it be given until January 23, 2014 to comply. Canada and Mexico asked for compliance by early 2013.

Meat labels became mandatory in March 2009 after years of debate. U.S. consumer and some farm groups supported the requirement, saying consumers should have information to distinguish between U.S. and foreign products.

Big meat processors opposed the provision, which they said would unnecessarily boost costs and disrupt trade.

The U.S. labeling law requires grocers to put labels on cuts of beef, pork, lamb, chicken and ground meat or post signs that list the origin of the meat.

U.S. officials have said the WTO's June ruling allowed the United States to continue to require country-of-origin labels, but Washington will have to alter the program to ensure it does not create an impermissible trade barrier.

"The United States remains committed to ensuring that consumers are provided with information about the origin of the beef and pork products they buy at the retail level," Nkenge Harmon, a spokesperson for U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, said on Tuesday. "We intend to bring the COOL requirements into compliance within the period of time established by the arbitrator, and we will continue to work with USDA, Congress, and interested stakeholders in order to do so."

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Additional reporting by Doug Palmer in Washington; Editing by John Wallace, Dale Hudson and Steve Orlofsky)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Coal Block Allocation

Coal Block Allocation

Government urges Supreme Court to not cancel some 'illegal' coal mines  Full Article 

Modi in Japan

Modi in Japan

Japan and India agree to boost strategic ties at summit  Full Article 

Basel III Norms

Basel III Norms

RBI amends Basel III guidelines for banks  Full Article 

HSBC PMI

HSBC PMI

Factory activity expands at slower clip in August.  Full Article 

Current Account

Current Account

Balance of payments surplus for third straight quarter  Full Article 

India Infrastructure

India Infrastructure

RBI rule handicaps India's infrastructure hopes  Full Article 

Book Talk

Book Talk

Reema Abbasi and a glimpse of Pakistan’s Hindu past  Full Article 

China Economy

China Economy

Retreat in China's PMIs heightens calls for policy easing.  Full Article 

Managing Share Sales

Managing Share Sales

Govt seeks bids from banks to manage PFC, REC share sales   Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage