Canada targets U.S. meat, other products in labels spat

Fri Jun 7, 2013 3:20pm EDT
 
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By Rod Nickel

(Reuters) - Canada wants to impose tariffs on U.S. imports ranging from meat to cherries, rice and potatoes to retaliate against the United States for what it calls a costly meat labeling requirement, escalating a 4-year-old dispute.

Canada will ask the World Trade Organization to approve its retaliatory measures in a process that will take 18 to 24 months, Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and International Trade Minister Ed Fast said on Friday.

Ritz said Mexico would also seek retaliation against the United States, although its list of products may not match the Canadian list. The two countries have worked closely together on addressing concerns about U.S. meat labeling rules.

Mexico's ministries of economy and agriculture did not immediately provide comment.

The dispute stems from a 2009 U.S. requirement that retail outlets specify the country of origin on labels on meat and other products in an effort to give consumers more information about the safety and origin of their food.

Canada says the labels add costs and have encouraged U.S. packers to import less Canadian livestock, driving some farmers going out of business.

If the WTO approves, Canada intends to impose tariffs on U.S. beef, pork, live hogs and cattle, corn, apples and cherries, as well as non-food products like wooden office furniture and mattresses, Ritz said in Vancouver.

Asked if the proposed retaliation was a bit like the biblical David versus Goliath battle, Ritz said he was not afraid of taking on the much-larger United States, which is Canada's biggest trading partner by far.   Continued...

 
Canada's Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 6, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie