For months, Canadian officials and meatpackers have been lobbying U.S. policymakers on a particular U.S. law they don’t like — Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL). Recently, Canada’s Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz embarked on a whirlwind tour of the United States to decry the alleged evils of COOL. However, he has been getting a few facts mixed up along the way.
One of Ritz’s main threats is that unless the United States repeals COOL, Canada will impose retaliatory tariffs not only on meat — the main focus of Canada’s ire — but also on a host of other products that are wholly unrelated to the issue at hand: frozen orange juice, pasta, communion wafers, chocolate, mattresses, wine and wooden office furniture, to name a few. What Ritz doesn’t mention is that this list is merely a scare tactic. Canada has a long road ahead before it could even consider retaliating against the United States.
First, the World Trade Organization (WTO) must give Canada permission to retaliate. The newly revised COOL rules — specifically rewritten to be WTO-compliant — are currently being evaluated at the WTO. This dispute panel will take months to resolve, and any resulting ruling will certainly be appealed by the losing side. This means that there are months, or years, ahead before Canada could even begin to consider retaliation — and that’s only if the WTO finds the new COOL rule to be non-compliant, which both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative have said is unlikely.
Another detail Ritz and other Canadian officials conveniently omit is the fact that Canada itself requires country-of-origin labels on a number of goods, such as dairy products, eggs and imported meat and fish. And we’re going to let them tell us what we can and cannot label?
Despite his claims, Ritz’s disingenuous actions aren’t fooling anyone. And the United States certainly isn’t about to eliminate a law that has been voted on by our Congress six times, is supported by 90 percent of American consumers, and has been the law of the land since 2008 simply because our neighbors to the north think it’s inconvenient.