WTO ruling on U.S. meat law to benefit Canada: source

Thu Nov 17, 2011 3:52pm EST
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canada can expect "significant positive news" on Friday from a World Trade Organization ruling about a U.S. meat labeling law, Canadian government sources said on Thursday.

The law currently requires U.S. packers to label meat with the name of country it is from, raising their costs and discouraging imports of cattle and hogs.

Canada's agriculture and trade ministers will hold a news conference on Friday at an Alberta ranch. A government advisory said they will announce "significant positive news" for livestock producers.

A senior government source said the announcement will be the WTO's final ruling on the labeling law. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative's office was not immediately available for comment.

The country of origin labeling law, also called COOL, came into effect in 2008, prompting a sharp drop in U.S. cattle and hog imports from Canada.

Ottawa challenged the law as being noncompliant with WTO rules in several ways. It's unclear whether Canada, later joined by Mexico, has won its case on all fronts.

"We have not seen the ruling, but it wouldn't surprise us at all (that Canada won)," said J.Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute. "We've argued for years in statements, letters and comments that this law was not just costly and cumbersome, but a violation of our country's WTO obligations."

Any favorable ruling would still not immediately swing open the U.S. border to greater cattle and hog shipments.   Continued...