WTO panel rules against U.S. in COOL fight: WSJ


Reuters — A World Trade Organization panel has ruled against the U.S. in a trade dispute over meat labels with Canada and Mexico, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The newspaper, citing anonymous sources familiar with the findings, said on Thursday that the U.S. lost its case before a panel set up to determine whether its revised labeling rules complied with an earlier WTO ruling. [Related story]

On Friday, Jeff English, a spokesman for Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, declined to confirm the WTO panel decision and said Canada will only speak about it once it becomes public.

All three governments received the compliance panel’s confidential decision earlier this summer, but have not publicly commented on its contents.

The U.S. rule, which requires retailers such as grocery stores to list the country of origin on meat, has resulted in fewer Canadian pigs and cattle being exported to the U.S. since 2009, according to the Canadian government.

The WTO ruled in June 2012 that the U.S. country-of-origin labeling program, known as COOL, unfairly discriminated against Canada and Mexico because it gave less favorable treatment to beef and pork imported from those countries than to U.S. meat.

The WTO said the U.S. must bring its labeling rules into compliance with the ruling by May 23, 2013.

The U.S. government made changes, but Canadian officials said they only made the situation worse, and asked the WTO to form the compliance panel. [Related story]

— Reporting for Reuters by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg.

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