U.S. COUNTRY OF ORIGIN PROVISION HARM AGRICULTURAL COMMERCE

(Bloomberg) — The World Trade Organization judges ruled on Friday that U.S. country-of-origin labeling provisions violate global trade rules and unjustly harm agricultural commerce.

The ruling backed claims by Canada and Mexico in 2008 that the provisions, which apply to beef, pork and chicken as well as some perishables, impose unfair costs on their exports, reducing their competitiveness. Judges agreed that the policies meant beef and pork from Canada and Mexico were treated less favorably than the same U.S. products.

Judges recommended in their 215-page report on the Geneva- based WTO’s website that the U.S. be told “to bring the inconsistent measures into conformity with its obligations.”

The Nov. 18 ruling may affect as many as 70 other WTO members, including the European Union, that have mandatory labeling requirements. The U.S. has 60 days to appeal and is considering this option, said Andrea Mead, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office in Washington.

“We remain committed to providing consumers with accurate and relevant information with respect to the origin of meat products that they buy at the retail level,” Mead said in a statement. “In that regard we are considering all options, including appealing the panel’s decision.”

The WTO ruling confirms the rules are “discriminatory and inconsistent with U.S. trade obligations,” said Ed Fast, Canada’s trade minister.

Mexico said when it filed its complaint that labeling rule was “significantly” affecting its bovine industry. Most of Mexico’s cattle exports go to its northern neighbor.

In the 27-nation EU, compulsory country-of-origin labeling applies to beef, fruits and vegetables, honey and olive oil. The EU plans to extend the rules to fresh pig, sheep and goat meat as well as poultry.

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