May 19, 2015
Canada and Mexico open to act against US over meat labelling law


The verdict on an unpopular US meat labelling requirement is out: The World Trade Organization (WTO) had ruled that the law, which made it mandatory for meat products entering the US to have their country-of-origin labelled, was an unfair exercise against the trade interests of Canada and Mexico.


"(The law) impose a disproportionate burden on producers and processors of livestock that cannot be explained by the need to provide origin information to consumers," a statement by the organisation stated.


In light of the outcome, Canada and Mexico could now execute retaliatory measures against the US, a scenario which spooked US politicians as the Republicans said that they will be acting against certain aspects of the law to avoid a vexatious situation.  


According to Tim Reif, the chief counsel of the US Trade Representative, all options are brought into considerations as he will continue to "consult with members of Congress and interested members of the public regarding possible next steps".


In recent times, meat exports to the US slumped significantly due to the implementation of the controversial law.


Customers have the prerogative to know the source of their food, supporters for labelling, including consumer advocacy group, Food and Water Watch, insisted. On the contrary, Canada and Mexico slammed the measure for being purely a protectionist action in favour of the US.


While the law found a majority of its backers in US ranchers who could earn from premium prices for animals raised in the States, the latest decision by WTO was welcomed by certain individuals and business groups at home.


"We flaunt our country's obligations under the rules-based trading system at our peril," John Murphy, a senior vice-president at the US Chamber of Commerce, warned "American farmers, workers, and companies will not be able to sell their goods and services to (foreign) consumers if we fail to live up to these rules ourselves."


Barry Carpenter, the president of the North American Meat Institute, thought that the labelling law is "costly and onerous" and believed that repealing the requirement is "the best way forward".


Having announced a 100% surtax for certain areas in the US including the states of California and Pennsylvania, Canada could impose tariffs against the country, tailored to a sum of US$1 billon.


It is an annual amount shouldered by Canadian pork and beef industries due to the process of labelling their products since the law came into effect in 2009.


Canada's retaliatory measures will affect US exports of wine, frozen orange juice, chocolate, ketchup, pasta, and cereals which are delivered in hundreds of millions to the country yearly.

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