Roger Bernard, Farm Journal Policy & Washington Editor
The WTO last week held the first round of hearings on the complaint by Canada and Mexico over the U.S. mandatory country of origin labeling (MCOOL) law.
The hearings were held in Geneva and came after the U.S. and Canada failed to resolve the dispute in consultations that are called for under any WTO dispute.
Canada's stance is that the U.S. law has disrupted trade and trade flows and have destroyed the integrated market for hogs, feeder cattle and beef. Canadian officials said after last week's hearings that the U.S. has not challenged Canada's "economic evidence" of the damage caused by MCOOL, but has said that "market participants" were to blame for the impacts.
"We correctly anticipated the arguments the U.S. would use to defend MCOOL and while there were no surprises, it is clear that the U.S. intends to defend this trade barrier vigorously," the Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA) said. The U.S. argued in the hearings that MCOOL was not designed to restrict trade but to inform consumers.
Additional hearings are expected in December and the dispute settlement panel is unlikely to reach a decision until around July 2011. Any decision is expected to be appealed, a process that will likely add another year to the timeline.