Canada revives WTO complaint on U.S. meat label law

Mon Apr 27, 2009 7:40pm EDT
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By Roberta Rampton and Doug Palmer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Canada has revived a complaint at the World Trade Organization about a U.S. meat labeling law that Canadian producers have complained has hurt their hog and cattle sales, Canada's Trade Minister Stockwell Day said on Monday.

Canada has complained a new mandatory rule that meat packers include the country of origin of their products on labels has curbed sales of Canadian livestock because of added costs for U.S. packers, hurting prices for Canadian producers.

"I've informed Ambassador (Ron) Kirk that we will move forward with the (WTO) consultation," Day said, noting the complaint will move into a 60-day consultation period.

"By giving formal notification of a consultation period, it says, 'We think this is off-side and we want the consultation period to begin,'" he told reporters after meeting Kirk.

Canada normally exports about C$4 billion ($3.28 billion) a year of hogs and cattle to the United States.

Canada filed a complaint about the law at the World Trade Organization last year, but suspended it in January after the U.S. government revised the final version, making it more flexible.

But before the law went into effect on March 16, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warned meat packers he would rewrite it unless they voluntarily made labels more explicit.

Canada has asked for more details about Vilsack's request, but failed to receive clarification, Day said.   Continued...