Friday, January 24, 2014

WTO COOL hearing Feb. 18 and 19

The World Trade Organization has set Feb. 18 and 19 in Geneva for hearings into Canada’s complaints about the new set of Country-of-Origin labeling (COOL) regulations adopted by the United States late last year.

The WTO ruled that an earlier set of U.S. COOL regulations amounted to an illegal trade barrier to cattle and hogs from Canada and Mexico.

Canadians, Mexicans and U.S. meat packers say the new COOL regulations are even worse, meaning that U.S. buyers face more expensive requirements if they buy livestock born outside of the U.S.

That depresses the price of cattle and hogs in Canada and Mexico.

Canadian hog and cattle farmers have hired companies to determine how much COOL is costing them and the estimates under the previous regulations is more than $1.6 billion a year.

If the WTO rules in Canada’s favour, the U.S. will have an opportunity to change its regulations. If not, the WTO will likely give Canada permission to apply tariffs to U.S. goods.

There are political moves underway in the U.S. to scrap or change the COOL regulations. One is a move from Congress to deny the U.S. Department of Agriculture the money it needs to implement and enforce COOL.

Another initiative is to add a clause to the five-year Farm Bill that has been under negotiation for more than a year.