U.S. Congress repeals meat labelling law, after facing Canadian retaliation

The Canadian Press
Friday, 18 December 2015
By The Canadian Press

December 18, 2015 - A potential trade war between Canada and the United States was all but averted today when Congress passed a massive spending bill that also repealed a controversial meat labelling law. 

The 2,000-plus pages of legislation contained a two-page rider that scrapped the U.S. labelling law, known as COOL, which had become a major irritant among Canada, Mexico and the U.S. 

The World Trade Organization granted Canada and Mexico the right to impose $1 billion in punitive tariffs on various U.S. products after finding that the country-of-origin labelling provisions 
violated international trade rules. 

International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland and Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay have said Canada was pressing Congress to scrap the provisions or face retaliatory tariffs. 

They were focusing on the Senate, where some Democrats supported the measures because of domestic political interests. 

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, the Republican chair of the Senate's powerful agriculture committee, said Friday he was relieved that COOL had been repealed and that the bill would soon land on President Barack Obama's desk for signature. 

Roberts said the retaliatory measures would have been damaging to various sectors of the U.S. economy. 

"From the ranchers in Kansas to the jewelry makers on the East Coast, every state had something to lose from keeping mandatory COOL intact,'' Roberts said in a statement. 

"Those worries can now be put to rest, and I'm proud to say the Senate has voted to protect the American economy.'' 

The WTO ruling, the latest in a series that Canada won in the dispute, cleared the way for widespread retaliation. 

The targeted U.S. products included not only agricultural ones such as cattle, pork, apples, rice, maple syrup and wine, but extended to non-agricultural products, such as jewelry, office chairs, wooden furniture and mattresses. 

The lower half of Congress, the House of Representatives, had previously repealed COOL, but there is still opposition in the Senate, where some Democrats faced pressure from beef and pork farmers in their constituencies to fight for the protection from their Canadian competitors. 

Today, the Senate voted by a 65-33 margin to approve the massive bill that included $1.14 trillion in new spending in 2016 and $680 billion in tax cuts in the decade to come. 

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