The World Trade Organization has ruled that the United States must bring its country-of-origin labeling rules into compliance with an earlier WTO ruling by May 23, 2013. The organization ruled in June that the COOL rule discriminated against Canada and Mexico because it gave less favorable treatment to imported beef and pork products than U.S. meat.

The labeling program has led to a sharp reduction in U.S. imports of Canadian pigs and cattle, because it raised costs for U.S. packers by forcing them to segregate those animals from U.S. livestock, reports Reuters.

"We expect that the U.S. will bring itself into compliance with its WTO obligations by May 2013 as determined by the arbitrator for the benefit of producers on both sides of the border," Canadian International Trade Minister Ed Fast and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a joint statement.

"We are particularly pleased that the arbitrator determined a reasonable period of time close to that proposed by Canada and Mexico, as opposed to the much longer period suggested by the United States."

According to the Canadian ministers, the United States asked that it be given until January 23, 2014 to comply. Canada and Mexico asked for compliance by early 2013.

U.S. officials have said the WTO's June ruling allowed the United States to continue to require country-of-origin labels, but Washington will have to alter the program to ensure it does not create an impermissible trade barrier.

"The United States remains committed to ensuring that consumers are provided with information about the origin of the beef and pork products they buy at the retail level," Nkenge Harmon, a spokesperson for U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, said on Tuesday. "We intend to bring the COOL requirements into compliance within the period of time established by the arbitrator, and we will continue to work with USDA, Congress, and interested stakeholders in order to do so."

Source: Reuters