Saskatchewan premier hopeful US meat-labelling law will be repealed


Language included in the omnibus spending bill to repeal parts of the US country-of-origin labeling is sitting well with foreign stakeholders, but that doesn't mean they won't continue efforts to retaliate against the provision.

The repeal had been signalled in advance: Canada and Mexico were poised to immediately impose $1 billion in tariffs on a wide range of American products including wine and frozen orange juice following wins at the World Trade Organization.

The dispute between the two countries appeared to take a step closer to resolution as US congressional negotiators wrapped up talks on Tuesday over a spending deal that includes the repeal of federal laws mandating meat packers identify where animals are raised and slaughtered.

The bill lifts beef and pork from the list of products subject to country-of-origin labeling requirements, but exempts chicken for which country-of-origin labels will still apply.

Johnson said COOL affected more than just producer's bottom lines, as lengthy court proceedings and trade hearings diverted resources into fighting for repeal. "What is important for our Canadian producers, Mexican allies and USA allies to know is we are very encouraged by the progress that we are seeing and we are monitoring it very closely".

What happens next hinges on a complex omnibus spending bill to be tabled in Congress by the end of Monday.

Beef industry experts are calling for "cool heads" in Washington while reminding consumers of the many benefits beef makes to meet the dietary needs of Americans, and the beef industry's importance to U.S. Agriculture.

Canada and Mexico can impose up to a billion dollars in tariffs because of losses to COOL.

If Canada and Mexico slap surtaxes on USA products, shoppers in those countries will pay more, said Bruce Cran, president of Consumers' Association of Canada. "But whether or not we would support a policy regarding country-of-origin labeling again really depends on whether there is a market for those labeled products". Opponents say it doesn't do anything for safety - for which there are already inspections.

John Masswohl, Canadian Cattlemen's Association director of government and worldwide relations, says in a telephone interview both the House of Representatives and the Senate have to approve the omnibus bill.

They say Western Canadian meat exports plummeted as a result of decade-old country-of-origin labelling rules.

The premier says repealing the law would increase beef and pork exports and have an nearly immediate impact on Canadian cattle producers.

"No one wants to jinx anything because we've seen some filibusters in the Senate... but I think people are optimistic that this is going to get all the way home", Wall said.

That's only one provision of a bill that could prompt noisy debate about energy and the environment.

With retaliation looming, legislators and industry groups in the US had been pushing for COOL's repeal, fearing that retaliatory tariffs would pack a powerful economic punch.