By Tim Kalinowski
Medicine Hat MP LaVar Payne joined livestock industry leaders in celebrating Canada and Mexico’s defeat of the United States’ final appeal to retain its controversial Country of Origin Labelling (C.O.O.L) law at the WTO last week.
“If I could do cartwheels I would,” said Payne last Thursday. “I think we knew that was going to be the case that we would certainly win again at the WTO. Now, as I understand, the U.S. Congress is already putting through a bill to get rid of the C.O.O.L labelling, which in our opinion is obviously was detrimental to the meat-packing and beef industry. It was a very protectionist move by the U.S. And this (legislation) hurt them as much as it hurt us because there was a lot of slaughter houses in the U.S. actually shut down because of it.”
Payne said it was obvious to most government officials, industry insiders and livestock producers the C.O.O.L law was a bad idea from the get go. He just wished it hadn’t taken so long to make its way through the WTO appeals process.
“It seems to take way too long for this process to happen. Quite often we hear they (the U.S.) are free traders, but they are really not freetraders.”
Payne also councils local farmers and ranchers to be patient a while longer. While the U.S. Congress looks finally set to repeal the law, it could still take months to get it done. If Congress does not comply with the WTO ruling, Payne said the Canadian government will bring forth targeted punitive measures on American products coming into Canada.
“We’re still probably a few months away from that,” explained Payne. “But I know Minister Ritz had already prepared a list of products, and we know which states we know these will have an impact on.”
All in all, while it will still take some time to bring the C.O.O.L chapter to a close, Payne said everyone he has talked with in the livestock industry is very happy things seem to be going in the right direction.
“I don’t think I would find anyone in the industry who is not happy with the ruling. We’ve talked to the Canadian Cattlemen, the hog producers, the chicken producers. Virtually all these groups from Alberta and right across the country, it has hurt them. And certainly that has had a huge impact on their bottom lines,” said Payne.