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WTO compliance panel to probe revisions to COOL

The same panel that ruled the United States’ rules on mandatory country-of-origin labelling (COOL) to be out of step with its trade obligations will now review the changes made to those rules.

The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body (DSB), at its meeting Wednesday, granted the second requests from Canada and Mexico for a DSB compliance panel on Washington’s revisions to COOL as it applies to meat.

The first requests from Canada and Mexico, at a DSB meeting in late August, were blocked by the U.S., exercising its right under WTO rules to do so.

The DSB said Wednesday it has agreed to refer the dispute to the “original panel,” to “determine the consistency of the measure taken by the U.S. to comply with the DSB’s recommendations and rulings in these disputes.”

A date hasn’t yet been set for the compliance panel to hear the case. The DSB’s remaining meetings for 2013, as of Friday, are scheduled for Oct. 22 and Nov. 25.

In any case, the compliance process, which includes the right of either party to appeal the panel’s determination to the Appellate Body, is expected to take until late 2014, according to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association in a separate statement Thursday.

USDA revised its COOL rules May 23, after the rules in their 2008 form were ruled out of order by the DSB (2011) and the WTO Appellate Body (2012) for discriminating against Canadian and Mexican livestock and meat.

The U.S. said at Wednesday’s meeting its final COOL rule is now in “full compliance” with the DSB’s recommendations and rulings, but Washington is “ready to rebut any claims regarding its compliance measures.”

The CCA on Thursday said the compliance panel “will likely be comprised of the same panelists whose finding that COOL discriminates against Canadian live cattle and hogs was affirmed by the WTO Appellate Body in 2012.”

The Canadian government has said it could seek retaliatory compensation of about $1.1 billion in tariffs on U.S. goods if a compliance panel rules against the final COOL rule. Ottawa in June published a list of potential targets for such tariffs.

The Canadian government and CCA continue to “share the position that the U.S. amendment (to COOL) falls short of compliance and in fact increases the discrimination against imported cattle and hogs in the U.S. marketplace.”

The CCA, for one, has previously said that where COOL has previously cost Canadian producers about $25 to $40 per head, USDA’s amended rule will increase the impact to about $90 to $100 per head.

U.S. processors and retailers, faced with added costs for segregating livestock and meat, are expected to discount what they pay for Canadian livestock as a result. — Network

Related stories:
U.S. court won’t reverse COOL changes, Sept. 11, 2013
Canada wants Washington’s revised COOL back at WTO, Aug. 19, 2013

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