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Canada lists U.S. commodities it may target with tariffs over labeling dispute

Ed Fast

Ed Fast

The Canadian government today released a list of U.S. commodities on which it may try to impose retaliatory tariffs on the grounds that the United States has not complied with the World Trade Organization ruling on U.S. country-of-origin labeling on beef, prompting reactions from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. beef groups.

The United States has submitted an alternative labeling proposal to the WTO, but the Canadian government has objected to that proposal.

Gerry Ritz

Gerry Ritz

“Our government is extremely disappointed that the United States continues to uphold this protectionist policy, which the WTO has ruled to be unfair, and we call on the United States to abide by the WTO ruling,” the Canadians said in a statement by Ed Fast, minister of International Trade and minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, and Gerry Ritz, minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and minister for the Canadian Wheat Board.

“When the United States failed to comply by the May 23 deadline, we said we would pursue all options available,” the statement said. “Today, we are also releasing a list of U.S. commodities for possible retaliation, to be published as soon as possible in the Canada Gazette, as a way to formally launch the consultation process.”

The list includes beef, pork, chicken, grains, fruits and dairy products. (See link to list below)

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said it is confident the new U.S. proposal brings the United States into compliance.

“We understand that Canada has issued a proposed retaliation list for the purpose of initiating an internal consultation process in Canada,” a USTR spokeswoman said in an email.

“Canada has stated, however, that it will not retaliate unless it receives authorization from the WTO (which it acknowledges will not happen for 18-24 months, if ever),” she said. “As we have said from the outset, USDA’s new final rule brings the United States into compliance, and therefore no retaliation should be authorized.”

Jess Peterson

Jess Peterson

“With all due respect, Canada is getting the cart a bit ahead of the horse here,” said Jess Peterson, a lobbyist for the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, which supports country-of-origin labeling.

“According to the WTO process, if Canada or Mexico are not pleased with the U.S. attempts to come into compliance, then the matter can be referred to a compliance panel,” Peterson said. “If any party to the process is unsatisfied with the compliance panel report, they can appeal the decision to the appellate body.

If Canada or Mexico wants to impose retaliatory sanctions, the countries must request authorization from the WTO dispute settlement body and identify a specific amount of financial harm,” Peterson said. “This process can also be arbitrated at the request of any of the parties involved.”

“Trying to spark a fake firestorm this early in the process is a bit premature, and USCA urges Congress to disregard these threats until the WTO process is exhausted,” Peterson added.
Scott George

Scott George

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is opposed to mandatory country-of-origin labeling.

NCBA President Scott George, a Cody, Wyo., cattle and dairy producer, said that Canada’s list “brings home the real-world consequences” of the Agriculture Department’s decision to defend the labeling program.

“Our members have warned both the USDA and members of Congress that should this program continue, there will be a true cost to not only cattle and pork producers but to many other segments of the U.S. economy as well,” George said. “This is too high a price to pay for a program that has proven it has no value.”