Meat Labeling Lawsuit

Canada and Mexico have repeatedly won rulings at the WTO against a recent U.S. law that requires onerous country-of-origin labelling on meat products. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Canada is seeking permission from the World Trade Organization to impose more than $3 billion a year in tariffs on products imported from the United States in the latest move in a trade battle.

Ottawa is taking the action because the U.S. has failed to repeal a contentious law requiring stringent country-of-origin labelling to identify where livestock was born, raised and slaughtered before being sold in the U.S.

Canada's meat industry says the law violates trade agreements and has cost producers billions of dollars. On May 18, the trade body agreed with that argument for the fourth time, and sided with Canada and Mexico over the issue.

Labelling called protectionist

Backers of the labelling say consumers have a right to know where their food comes from.

But industry groups, Canada and Mexico call it a thinly disguised protectionist measure that complicates the sorting process for Americans who import foreign meat and quietly compels them to use U.S. suppliers.

U.S. out of options after latest WTO meat labelling ruling
After the most recent win, which the government called "final and without the possibility of further appeal," Canadian officials vowed to pursue the matter further by seeking permission to slap a tariff of up to 100 per cent on U.S. imports on a slew of products, including:

  • Fruits.
  • Vegetables.
  • Grains.
  • Pasta.
  • Chocolates.
  • Baked goods.
  • Prepared food.
  • Jewelry.
  • Liquor.
  • Wine.
  • Furniture.

"Despite the WTO's final ruling that U.S. country of origin labelling measures are discriminatory, the United States continues to avoid its international trade obligations," Trade Minister Ed Fast said in a statement Our government will now move ahead under the WTO process and seek authorization for over $3 billion in retaliation."

"The WTO has ruled that the United States is out of options and out of time," Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz added. "The only way for the United States to avoid billions in immediate retaliation is to repeal [the law]."