June 29, 2012
The World Trade Organization Appellate Body has confirmed, indeed strengthened the most important part of the WTO Dispute Panel decision that the U.S. country of origin labeling (COOL) legislation discriminates against Canadian livestock in the US market.
Canadian Pork Council (CPC) President Jean Guy Vincent told a media conference in Dundurn, Saskatchewan, the Appellate Body has found that “the regulatory distinctions imposed by the COOL measure amount to arbitrary and unjustifiable discrimination against imported livestock, such that they cannot be said to be applied in an even-handed manner. After all this time and after so much damage to our interests, this is such sweet music to our ears.”
On the second main issue of whether or not the US measure was more restrictive than necessary, the Appellate Body found that it did not have enough information to reach a conclusion. Mr. Vincent explained that “This report is very long — some 232 pages. We have not had time to fully digest it. CPC had never disputed the consumer’s right to know as a principle, provided that this does not restrict trade, and the legitimacy of this objective has been confirmed.”
While the Appellate Body did not have enough information, it does not dilute the main findings. This decision will require the U.S. to change its legislation in order to comply. The condemnation of discrimination against Canadian feeder pigs and slaughter hogs, as well as beef cattle is confirmed.
Since its implementation in 2008, COOL has had a direct impact of at least $1.4 billion on Canadian hog exports to the U.S. This does not include any price suppression effects on hogs sold in Canada.
This report is not subject to further appeals. Together with the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, CPC has been engaged in years of expensive time-consuming challenges and litigation to prevent and end the serious discrimination posed by COOL.
The Canadian and American livestock sectors must now work together to smooth the way for fairer and more progressive systems.