Canada may retaliate on US ‘country of origin’ meat labels, with threat of tariffs

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 11th June 2013

Canada has warned that it may impose tariffs on a large range of food products if the US does not change a meat-labelling policy that Canadian beef and pork industries say is costing them more than CA$1 billion a year.

Canada’s Agriculture and Agri-Food department released a long list of agriculture and other products that could be affected by Canada’s retaliation in an ongoing dispute over US Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) rules. The potential retaliation list includes US cattle, pigs, beef, pork, cheese, pasta, some fruits and vegetables, chocolate and maple syrup.

In 2009, the US issued a requirement that retail outlets put country of origin labels on meat and other products in an effort to give US consumers more information about their food.

The rule, which increases costs and makes it more difficult for US companies to buy Canadian products, led to lower US imports of livestock from Canada. According to the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada department, Canadian cattle shipments to the US were cut by half within a year, and the export of slaughter hogs by 58 per cent.

Australian Food News reported in November 2011 that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) had ruled that the US CoOL measures were inconsistent with the US’s WTO trade obligations.

“Despite consistent rulings by the WTO, the US government continues its unfair trade practices, which are severely damaging to Canadian industry and jobs,” Gerry Ritz, Canadian Minister for Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board and Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade said in a statement.

“Our government is extremely disappointed that the United States continues to uphold this protectionist policy, which the WTO has ruled to be unfair, and we call on the US to abide by the WTO ruling,” they said.

“We are preparing to launch the next phase of the WTO dispute settlement process on the new US rule, which we had hoped to avoid by the US living up to its trade obligations,” the Canadian Ministers said.

The Canadian Government said the list of US commodities for possible retaliation would be published in the Canada Gazette, “as a way to formally launch the consultation process”.

In the meantime, the Canadian Government said it would continue to consult with stakeholders “as we pursue a fair resolution of this issue through the WTO over the next 18 to 24 months”. The Canadian Government said it would act on the retaliatory measures until it was authorised by the WTO to do so.

Little impact on Australian beef exports to US, says analyst

Meanwhile, Australian beef news outlet Beef Central reported US analyst Len Steiner as saying that the most recent changes to US CoOL rules are unlikely to have an impact on Australian exports to the US, because most Australian product is sold as ground beef through retail outlets, such as the Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) sector.

The new rules should have no effect on the foodservice business, according to Mr Steiner.

Australia exported $1,299 million of processed meat to the US in 2011-12, according to data collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics published in the Australian Government’s ‘Australian Food Statistics 2011-12’.

Canada threatens tariffs for US foods in response to meat labelling