It seems as the never ending war on words, in between lawyers, most often sucking millions of dollars from the coffers of livestock association / organizations across Canada continues.
So far it appears at least, the legal companies are the only ones benefiting from the mandatory country-of-origin labelling (M-COOL) battle between the United States government, and the governments of Mexico and Canada at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
However, in all their collective wisdom the WTO set a date to hear the US government’s appeal on M-COOL. The hearing took place February 16 and 17, 2015 at WTO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
After strike three at the WTO, the U.S. government filed yet another appeal back in November after the WTO ruled for a third time in favour of Canada and Mexico.
Canada, and it almost looks like the small boy taunting the ‘bully’ from within the confines of his own home with daddy beside him, keeps threatening to impose retaliatory tariffs if the U.S. does not comply with the WTO.
Governments and industry alike estimated the impact of M-COOL on the Canadian cattle and hog sectors in 2012 to be around $1.1 billion dollars per year.
Karl Kynoch, the outgoing chair of Manitoba Pork says support in the U.S. for resolution of M-COOL to avoid retaliatory tariffs is building. That is a good thing because more and more people recognize, again no one but the legals benefit from retaliations. In sports, it is often the person retaliating that gets the penalty.
If Canada and Mexico lose this third and final appeal at the WTO, and no resolution, Canada and Mexico can then seek authority to impose retaliatory tariffs on imported U.S. products.
Kynoch says, in discussions with U.S. pork producers attending the Minnesota and Iowa Pork Congresses recently, the desire to resolve this issues keeps building.
“As M-COOL gets closer to a head, the one thing in the U.S. made very clear to us in meetings at the Minnesota and Iowa Pork Boards, the pork producers in the U.S. want M-COOL resolved,” he says. “They’re doing what they can with their Senators, with their Congressmen, whoever they can talk to. The one thing we don’t want to get into is trade retaliation, having tariffs and duties and if we don’t get it resolved by the end of this year that could be where we’re headed.”
Kynoch says that would actually be negative for Canada and the U.S. because at the end of the day the producers will get hurt. At both pork congresses in Minnesota and Iowa, the Manitoba delegation worked very closely with their member associations, talking to senate and congress staff, to determine what they can do to get people to understand the consequences of it and what could happen, and the need to resolve it sooner rather than later.
He says the big change in the U.S., in light of the WTO rulings on the matter, is that many of the rock solid supporters of M-COOL see the writing on the wall and recognize they need to address and resolve the issue.
Kynoch says swine health issues and the need to better control disease, also emerged as a key issue during their discussions.
“One of the big issues going forward is going to be health, how do we manage health?
We believe that the PED has really brought that to a forefront,” he says.
Manitoba is working with the three western provinces to develop a Swine Health Intelligence Network and start gathering information and collecting it and pooling it on new diseases that come in and how they’re spreading,” he added.
The Manitoba group let those boards in Minnesota and Iowa know what they’re doing and suggested to them down the road once they get these systems up and running, groups from both countries start interacting because of the huge amount of trade going back and forth.
“We’ve found out now that they’re also kind of heading down that same road and there’s a huge amount of support to work together with the states and with Canada,” said Kynoch.
The outgoing chair of Manitoba Pork says both sides realize there is a real need to develop this information system and start monitoring diseases in a better fashion to get a handle on them sooner.  •
— By Harry Siemens