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Canada prepared for trade war if US meat labeling rules aren't repealed

CALGARY, Alberta – Canada is ready to start a trade war if the U.S. doesn’t repeal its country of origin meat labeling rules.

After a World Trade Organization ruling found that American country of origin meat labeling rules treated imported livestock unfairly, the House of Representatives voted last week to repeal the rules. The decision came as Canada pressured U.S. lawmakers with threats of billions of dollars in import taxes if the rules weren’t repealed.

Canada’s livestock industry seems pleased with the House votes. Canadian Cattlemen Association Director of Government and International Relations John Masswohl says his colleagues are watching the legislative process closely, hoping for a total repeal.

“One of three of the legislative processes is done,” said Masswohl, noting that the Senate and President’s desk lay ahead for the bill. “It was a good, strong vote there, voting to repeal COOL, you know, so that’s a necessary step. But you know, I think we probably face a significant challenge in the Senate. The folks that have been strong supporters of COOL have indicated that that’s going to be a battle there.”

The Canadian goverment is currently requesting authorization from the World Trade Organization to saddle American imports with more than $3 billion in tariffs. That’s the amount by which Canada says the labeling rule has harmed its livestock industry since it went into effect.

The WTO will make its decision on June 17, and is expected to authorize retaliation for Canada; For Iowa, retaliation threatens an annual $1.3 billion dollars in exports to Canada, and include corn, corn syrup, and soybeans.

Masswohl says Canadian leaders are serious that retaliation is coming unless the rule is repealed, and he interprets the House vote as a demonstration that U.S. lawmakers are worried.

“There’s a lot of concern in the House, as well there should be, because this is real,” said Masswohl. “I think if anybody thinks this is a bluff, or isn’t going to happen; I’ve met with our ag minister a lot of times on this, and he doesn’t sound like he’s bluffing to me. This comes from the prime minister. He intends to do this, if we need to.”

To hear more about the Canadian reaction to the House vote repealing COOL, click the audio player above this story.