April 27, 2009 / 11:43 PM / in 8 years

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

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.

BUY AMERICA

Day said he also raised concerns about U.S. state and municipal government implementation of Buy American provisions in the recently passed U.S. stimulus bill. Some local governments appear to be implementing the provisions in a way that disadvantage Canadian companies, he said.

“Right now, in Canada, U.S. companies can bid on projects at the municipal and the provincial levels. We want to make sure that is maintained for Canadian companies bidding into the United States,” Day said.

The Buy American provision generally requires public works projects funded by the economic stimulus bill to use only U.S.-made steel, iron and other manufactured goods.

But at President Barack Obama’s insistence, lawmakers added language so countries which have a free trade pact with the United States or which have signed onto the World Trade Organization’s government procurement pact would still be able take part in projects funded by the bill.

However, discrimination against Canadian companies has already appeared on some U.S. water and sewage treatment projects, prompting at least one Canadian city government to press for a ban on U.S. companies and goods doing business in Canada’s public works sector, Day said.

“We want basically to roll back any attempt or any provision which would exclude Canada from being able to enter into projects into the United States,” Day said.

($1=$1.22 Canadian)

Editing by Christian Wiessner

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