Canadian ag minister Gerry Ritz this week is in Washington, D.C., to discuss the Country of Origin Labeling rule with members of Congress and industry groups, planning to reaffirm the country's position that the rule enforces "protectionist" measures on trade.
The visit comes as the World Trade Organization on May 18 ruled the COOL policy noncompliant with trade regulations. COOL requires that certain meat products be labeled with the country where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.
While in D.C., Ritz is planning a press conference Thursday to discuss the Country of Origin Labeling rule, and will be traveling with representatives from the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, the Canadian Pork Council, and the Canadian Meat Council.
Canada has long been against COOL, and as a result of the latest WTO ruling will be seeking authorization to retaliate against the U.S.
In 2013, when proposed revisions were released to the COOL rule to make it more palatable for trade partners, Canada said it would retaliate if permitted to do so. At the time, items on the list included live cattle and pork, dairy and produce products, cherries and pasta – even wooden office furniture.
"The WTO has repeatedly ruled that COOL is causing serious harm to our integrated North American beef and pork sectors," Ritz said in a released statement. "Our government will continue to make it clear that the United States must repeal COOL quickly or face retaliation."
National Cattlemen's Beef Association Vice President of Government Affairs Colin Woodall said in an NCBA interview this week that Canada, Mexico and the U.S. are currently working on negotiating the monetary level at which Canada and Mexico can retaliate on the U.S.
Woodall says the level is expected to be around $2.5 to 3 million. "Once that is done, then we expect retaliation to actually take place. So we could see retaliation as early as the last week of July."
Woodall says that even though it's possible, the more widely expected start date is around September. "Bottom line is, we do expect retaliation," he says.
According to Ritz's office and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, eight million jobs in the U.S. depend on trade with Canada. Woodall says part of the reasoning for the retaliation will be to inflict economic damages on the U.S.
"That's why they will be targeting … California wine, Iowa ethanol, Kentucky bourbon – trying to make a dent in the overall trade relationship," he says. "We can't afford that, especially on the beef side, because Canada and Mexico are worth about one-third of our exports."
Woodall estimates that could boil down to about $115 to $120 per head for beef producers.
House COOL vote expected June 9
NCBA is backing a measure that passed in the House Ag Committee last month to repeal COOL requirements for beef, pork and chicken, while leaving intact other covered commodities.
Woodall says the 38-6 vote was a strong margin for the measure, and a vote in the full House is expected on Tuesday, June 9.
"We need to make sure that we are not hurting the trade relationship with our most important partners – Canada and Mexico," Woodall said.