OTTAWA/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Canada and Mexico will seek World Trade Organization authorization to impose over $3 billion in sanctions against U.S. exports in retaliation against contentious meat-labeling laws, the two nations said on Thursday.
U.S. legislators have signaled they plan to repeal the 2009 laws, which Canada and Mexico says makes their meat products more expensive.
In May, the WTO upheld an earlier ruling that country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rules illegally discriminate against imported livestock from Canada and Mexico, rejecting a U.S. appeal.
The decision formally allowed the two countries to impose trade sanctions against the United States, which must be approved by the WTO.
The United States saw the annual values as "substantially inflated" and would seek WTO arbitration at the appropriate time, a spokesman for the U.S. Trade Representative said.
Mexico and Canada are therefore seeking an extraordinary session of the WTO's dispute settlement body on June 17 to authorize the punitive measures.
"Despite the WTO's final ruling that U.S. country of origin labeling measures are discriminatory, the United States continues to avoid its international trade obligations," Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast said in a statement.
Canada said it wanted to impose just over C$3 billion ($2.4 billion) in sanctions while Mexico is looking for $653 million worth of punitive measures.
Ottawa is likely to target beef, pork, California wines, mattresses, cherries and office furniture, Farm Minister Gerry Ritz said on Tuesday.
"The governments of Mexico and Canada will keep working closely to resolve this important commercial dispute with the United States, with an aim to defend our farmers and breeders and maintain jobs and economic prosperity in all of North America," the Mexican economy ministry said in a statement.
In 2009, the United States required that retail outlets use labels such as "Born in Mexico, Raised and Slaughtered in the United States" to give consumers more information about the safety and origin of their food.
Consumer groups and some U.S. lawmakers say the rules provide essential information about products for shoppers.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by James Dalgleish, Bernard Orr