Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Stockwell Day Toughens Canadian Stance on Meat Dispute

(Financial Post)

International Trade Minister Stockwell Day suggested Thursday Canada’s patience with Washington is running thin over a U.S. meat-labelling law that is “dissuading” the purchase of Canadian-bred livestock, and he plans to be “aggressive” in defending the country’s interests.

Mr. Day’s remarks, at the conclusion of a week-long visit to Asia, mark a sharp U-turn on how Canada will deal with the Obama admistration on this trade dispute that Canadian swine and cattle producers claim is “killing” their sector. Only a week ago, he said he would “reserve judgment” on pursuing retaliation against the United States through the World Trade Organization.“We have time limitations on how long we will let this draw out,” Mr. Day told reporters in a conference call from Hong Kong.

The law sparking this latest Canada-U.S. brouhaha deals with country-of-origin labelling, and was years in the making and introduced in stages — in the fall and then last month. It requires that labels on meat and other foods sold at U. S. supermarkets have labels that indicate from which countries the food originates.

Canada had won concessions from the former Bush administration that it was, at least temporarily, willing to live with. But in February, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a letter to the American meat-packing sector in which he asked that it undertake additional “voluntary” measures that are not in the bill, including that labels be included on processed meats. Read more here.