Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ottawa prepares to take on Obama over meat

WASHINGTON — Ottawa is taking the United States to the World Trade Organization over a new food labelling law that threatens tens of millions of dollars worth of Canadian hog and cattle exports, marking Canada's first formal trade fight with the Obama administration.

Trade Minister Stockwell Day said he alerted U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to the challenge when the two met for the first time Monday in Washington. “We think this is offside,” Mr. Day told reporters. “We've given him the heads-up that we are moving ahead.”

Under WTO rules, Canada's request starts the clock ticking on a 60-day consultation period, after which Ottawa can request a dispute panel to settle the case.

At issue is a new U.S. country-of-origin labelling, or COOL, law, which forces U.S. food companies to carefully track and disclose to consumers all the foreign-sourced ingredients in their products. The rules were released early in the Obama presidency.

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