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WTO Rules Against US Country-of-origin Labels

On 18 November 2011 the WTO announced its decision in respect of various complaints brought by Canada and Mexico against the United States in respect of its “certain country of origin labelling” (“COOL”) requirements for beef and pork. 

According to the Government of Canada, “the U.S. COOL measure has forced the livestock industry in Canada and other countries that trade with the U.S. to go through a lengthy labelling and tracking system with an unnecessary paperwork burden and additional red tape. It has led to disintegration of the North American supply chain, created unpredictability in the market and imposed additional costs on producers on both sides of the border. Thirteen WTO country members have joined as third parties in the dispute.”

The panel found that the rules, as well as a letter from the Minister of Agriculture calling for additional ‘voluntary action’,resulted in less favourable treatment for Canadian beef and pork as compared to domestic products, and that the rules did not fulfill the legitimate objective of providing consumers with information.

The ruling requires the US end the program; it is likely to appeal.

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