U.S. Trade Leaders Consider Appeal of World Trade Organization Ruling
Washington, D.C., United States
November 21, 2011 03:17 pm EST
Economy, Business And Finance, Agriculture, Livestock Farming, Politics, Diplomacy, International Relations, Health, Disease, Communicable Diseases
U.S. trade officials are trying to decide this week whether to appeal a ruling against them by the World Trade Organization on labeling of meat from Canada and Mexico.
The World Trade Organization ordered the U.S. Agriculture Department to change its 2008 labeling regulations that require importers to list the country of origin on their meat products.
“We are considering all options, including appealing the panel’s decision,” the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said in a statement.
Canadian and Mexican trade representatives filed a complaint against the United States in December 2008 that argued the U.S. labeling requirements were protectionist and violated international trade agreements.
They also said the labeling put them at a price disadvantage compared with American meatpackers that cost Canadian and Mexican farmers as much as $60 per head of cattle.
U.S. regulations forced meat processors to segregate Canadian and Mexican cattle and hogs, which raised their costs.
The result was a drop in imports of Canadian and Mexican livestock and higher prices for their meat.
Canadian trade minister Ed Fast said the World Trade Organization ruling Friday restores fair trade practices.
“We can now work with our American partners to turn this around and put our livestock industry back on a track to create more jobs and prosperity, Fast said, according to Canadian media reports.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s office has 60 days from the Nov. 18 ruling date to appeal to the World Trade Organization.
Part of the ruling favored the U.S. position that said the labeling rules were not intended to be discriminatory, merely to ensure consumer protection standards are followed.
“We are pleased that the panel affirmed the right of the United States to require country of origin labeling for meat products,” said a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative.
“Although the panel disagreed with the specifics of how the United States designed those requirements, we remain committed to providing consumers with accurate and relevant information with respect to the origin of meat products,” the statement said.
The Trade Representative’s office appeared to be reluctant to back down from its labeling requirements.
A statement from the trade office said it would continue to work with the Agriculture Department to ensure consumers are well-informed about the beef and pork they buy.
Any decisions by the U.S. Trade Representative to appeal the ruling could run into opposition within the U.S. agricultural industry as well.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) warned about a backlash against U.S. exporters if the World Trade Organization’s ruling is not followed.
The Canadian and Mexican governments could raise fees on American imports, according to cattle producers.
“This ruling solidifies our concerns that [country-of-origin labeling rules] would have extensive trade implications as NCBA expressed during 2008 farm bill deliberations,” according to a statement from Colin Woodall, vice president of government affairs at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “We must act quickly before U.S. farmers and ranchers once again face unnecessary and unfortunate retaliatory tariffs on their products.”
Mexico’s Ministry of the Economy issued a statement welcoming the World Trade Organization ruling.
“The panel recognized that provisions of the “Country of Origin Labeling” law are discriminatory and contrary to the obligations created by agreements between nations because they generate unfavorable competitive conditions for Mexican exporters,” the statement said.
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