By Jennifer M. Freedman Jan. 5 (Bloomberg)

— The World Trade Organization gave the U.S., Canada and Mexico an extra two months to decide whether to appeal a November ruling that found American country-of-origin labeling provisions unfairly hurt agricultural commerce.

The three governments now have until March 23 to challenge judges’ finding that U.S. requirements for food processors to identify the nations from which cattle, hogs and some fresh produce originate break global trade rules, the WTO said in a statement in Geneva today. Canada and Mexico had argued that the provisions impose unfair costs on their exports, reducing their competitiveness.

They lodged their complaints in December 2008, disputing provisions of the U.S. Food, Conservation and Energy Act that impose mandatory country-of-origin labeling for beef, pork, chicken, lamb and goat as well as some perishables sold by American retailers. The requests to extend the deadline, initially set for Jan. 18, were made in light of the WTO Appellate Body’s current workload, according to documents submitted by the three governments to the Geneva-based trade arbiter.

The Nov. 18 ruling on country-of-origin labeling, known as COOL, may affect as many as 70 other WTO members, including the European Union, that have mandatory labeling requirements. Compulsory country-of-origin labeling in the EU applies to beef, fruit and vegetables, honey and olive oil. The 27-nation EU, which has said it plans to extend the rules to fresh pig, sheep and goat meat as well as poultry, said after the WTO ruling that it was analyzing the panel report “to see what the implications are for us.” –Editors: Eddie Buckle, Leon Mangasarian To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer M. Freedman in Geneva at

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