United States labeling requirements that force meatpackers to list where animals were born, raised and slaughtered have stirred ire among countries that feel the mandates are discriminatory.
Canadian Consul General Louise Blais feels strongly that a repeal of mandatory country of origin labeling is necessary to maintain a good relationship with the poultry industries of Georgia and beyond.
Given the retaliatory sanctions Mexico and Canada have threatened to impose, Georgia Poultry Federation President Mike Giles is inclined to agree.
“We’d like to continue having good trade relations with these countries now and in the future. ” said Giles, who voiced support for H.R. 2393, a bill that aims to repeal country of origin, or COOL, label requirements.
U.S. lawmakers currently are weighing the bill’s merits. The House voted earlier this month to remove the labeling from beef, pork and chicken sold in this country in hopes of avoiding a trade battle. The Senate has yet to decide on the measure.
U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, who voted in favor of the bill, has come out in support of the bill “to protect farmers, families, ranchers and small businesses” in his district and nationwide.
Revised COOL requirements were implemented in 2009 and challenged by Canada and Mexico within five months. The World Trade Organization has since ruled in favor of Canada and Mexico four times.
The WTO’s primary function is to deal with the global rules of trade between nations.
“In a number of other situations the United States has relied on the World Trade Organization’s rulings in order to establish fair trade for other disputes with other countries, and they have ruled in this matter,” Giles said. “Without repeal of the COOL rules, the potential exists for retaliatory actions that could harm poultry and other sectors. That’s something we’d like to avoid.”
According to statistics provided by the Consulate General, Canada is “Georgia’s No. 1 export market for agriculture and agri-food,” with $473 million total exports to Canada, including $79 million in poultry.
Canada and Mexico have said U.S. labeling requirements put products at a disadvantage, not because consumers avoid the products but because companies don’t want the expense of tracking imported animals.
“If COOL is not fixed, there is a chance that the poultry industry in Georgia could face retaliatory tariffs,” Blais said. “Canada has had a very good relationship with the state of Georgia, and we want to keep it that way, and we hope it can be fixed so we can keep doing good business together.”