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R-Calf Claim US Kowtows to Canada's Threats

24 July 2009

US - R-calf USA is claiming that recently disclosed government documents reveal how Canada effectively used the World Trade Organization (WTO) to gain superior leverage over an important U.S. rulemaking process.

These documents reveal that Canada wrested substantial concessions from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) during the eleventh hour of the agency’s official rulemaking for the United States’ mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law, says R-Calf.

According to the association, on Sept. 30, 2008, USDA closed the public comment period for its interim final rule on Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling of Beef, Pork, Lamb, Chicken, Goat Meat, Perishable Agriculture Commodities, Peanuts, Pecans, Ginseng, and Macadamia Nuts (Interim Final COOL Rule).

"Although USDA was supposed to weigh the public interest – based on the comments submitted to the agency that included the opinions of 11,796 consumers and others who participated in the public rulemaking process – as the basis for writing its Final COOL Rule, the agency, instead, capitulated to Canada’s threat of retaliation against COOL at the Geneva-based WTO," says the R-Calf report.

R-Calf goes on to say that on a Jan. 7, 2009, exchange of letters between Canada’s Ambassador to the WTO John Gero and the U.S. Ambassador to the WTO Peter F. Allgeier, the U.S. proposed to accommodate Canada’s requested changes in the agency’s Final COOL Rule in return for Canada’s agreement not to pursue a WTO dispute for a period of eight months.

The documents also reveal that Canada requested concessions from USDA to allow the use of a mixed-origin label on products exclusively of U.S. origin and on meat derived from livestock imported into the U.S. for immediate slaughter, says R-Calf. "This quid pro quo proposal by the U.S. was issued eight days before USDA issued its Final COOL Rule, which granted Canada the concessions it sought."

“This should be a real eye opener for U.S. citizens,” said R-CALF USA President/Region VI Director Max Thornsberry, DVM, MBA. “After more than six years of rulemaking that involved the efforts of thousands of U.S. consumers and U.S. producers, USDA granted a foreign country – Canada – the opportunity to dictate the final contents of the Final COOL Rule, while U.S. consumers and producers were afforded no such opportunity.”

“We are now witness to the unconscionable actions of a federal agency that has ignored its duty to defend our constitutionally passed COOL law, ignored the public interest and the will of Congress, and has, instead, kowtowed to the special interests of the Canadian government, all to the detriment of U.S. citizens,” said Thornsberry. “This is well beyond being simply a serious matter because USDA’s actions have resulted in an erosion of our individual rights and our national sovereignty.

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