The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) has been very active this past month with the second round of oral hearings examining whether the United States (U. S.) country-of-origin labelling (COOL) law violates the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements.
I was in Geneva, Switzerland on December 1 and 2 along with key CCA staff for the final oral hearing. The CCA participated as stakeholder advisors to the Government of Canada legal team to ensure that Canada’s case, built from more than two years’ worth of documentation outlining the negative impacts of COOL on the Canadian cattle industry, was as strong as it could possibly be.
I was encouraged by the performance of the Government of Canada and its outstanding legal team at the hearing and congratulated them for the strong presentation made to the WTO dispute settlement panel. Canada’s legal team capably countered the main U.S. claims, namely that COOL does not have protectionist intent and is merely intended to provide consumers with more information, and that COOL does not require segregation.
At this hearing, the U.S. made little effort to refute the analysis and economic evidence presented by Canada and Mexico in September. The U.S. again blamed reduced trade in 2009 on the recession. They also pointed out that Canadian cattle exports to the U.S. increased seven per cent in 2010, and Mexican cattle exports rose 30 per cent in 2010 and both are receiving high prices in the U.S. market. In spite of the U.S. arguments, Canada’s economic analysis and statements from U.S. cattle buyers left little doubt that COOL has caused a negative differential between the value of U.S. and Canadian cattle. The CCA is confident that we clearly demonstrated that COOL has negatively impacted the conditions of competition for Canadian cattle and other livestock in the U.S. market.
As we focus on next steps, I’d like to once again thank International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz for the commitment of resources that enabled Canada’s case to reach this level.
I am proud to add that Canada’s case was as strong as it could possibly be due to the determined engagement of the CCA. This WTO case has been expensive for all the parties involved, but living with COOL in its current form is much more costly for Canadian cattle producers. Producers should know that the CCA’s legal effort regarding this trade issue is funded by the valuable provincial checkoff dollars provided by producers through their provincial cattle organizations as members of the CCA.
This funding has enabled the CCA to hire recognized experts like economist Dr. Dan Sumner of the University of California. Dr. Sumner provided the analysis of market and other economic data that strongly supported the Canadian case.
Dr. Sumner was initially hired by the CCA but his expertise quickly proved to be of such a benefit that the Government of Canada included him on their team. Dr. Sumner remains on the case to the benefit of the Canadian cattle industry and we appreciate the Government of Canada’s funding of this critical resource of expertise.
Our focus is now directed towards the written responses to questions from the panel. These responses are the last opportunity we have to present information to the panel before their decision is published in late July. While it is difficult to make a prediction on the outcome of the case, I will say that the effort expended by Canada resulted in an extremely strong case being put forward.
The effort to improve the industry continues on the domestic front as well. A recent Government of Canada announcement that it will invest up to $3 million for a series of pilot projects aimed at facilitating inter-provincial trade will benefit producers and processors.
As the domestic market is Canada’s biggest market, removing any barriers to improved trade is a worthy undertaking. Increasing opportunities for provincially inspected processing plants will increase demand and competition for Canadian cattle, particularly in regions which are not in close proximity to federal plants.
The move supports one of the CCA’s key principles of free and competitive trade both internationally and inter-provincially, and follows through on a promise made back in July at the Federal/Provincial/ Territorial Agriculture Ministers’ meeting.
Flood and excess moisture damage experienced in regions in Western Canada is another domestic issue that has been the focus of attention. The CCA has had a number of discussions with the federal minister on an AgriRecovery response for both Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Both the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association and the Manitoba Beef Producers (formerly the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association) have and are dealing with their respective provincial governments on this issue which is key, as AgriRecovery is a program that is initiated by the provinces. Our advice to the federal minister as recently as a couple of weeks ago was that an announcement needed to be made ASAP.
TravisToews ispresidentof theCanadian Cattlemen’s Association
The CCA is confident that we clearly demonstrated that COOL has negatively impacted the conditions of competition for Canadian cattle