The Department of Agriculture has refused to comply with World Trade Organization rules even after U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) regulations were conclusively determined to be incompatible with international trade obligations. In short, the U.S. law imposes dramatic and unwarranted costs on any American meat processors who buy foreign cattle. This is harmful to Canadian cattle raisers in a way that does not serve any public interest in the United States.
In preparation for possible retaliation to continued U.S. refusal to abide by the WTO decision, the Canadian government released today a list of U.S. goods for which it is considering raising tariffs in accordance with WTO rules. The goal of the tariffs would be to incentivize American industries that export to Canada to lobby Congress or the administration to remove the offending COOL regulations. This interplay is one of the clever ways that WTO dispute settlement furthers trade liberalization—by pitting competing special interests against each other.
Unfortunately, the retaliation will prove costly to the Canadian people. Here are some of the goods that Canadians will now have to pay higher prices, so that some American bureaucrats can force other Americans to pay for useless information:
- cheese, not including the following: fresh (unripened or uncured) cheese, whey cheese, or curd; grated or powdered; processed cheese; blue-veined cheese or cheese containing veins produced by Penicillium roqueforti
- apples, fresh
- corn (maize)
- Semi-milled or wholly milled rice, whether or not polished or glazed
- maple sugar and maple syrup
- chocolate and other food preparations containing cocoa-preparations in blocks, slabs, or bars weighing more than 2 kg or in liquid, paste, powder, granular, or other bulk form in containers or immediate packings, of a content exceeding 2 kg
- pasta, whether or not cooked or stuffed (with meat or other substances) or otherwise prepared, such as spaghetti, macaroni, noodles, lasagna, gnocchi, ravioli, cannelloni; couscous, whether or not prepared
- bread, pastry, cakes, biscuits and other bakers’ wares, whether or not containing cocoa; communion wafers, empty cachets of a kind suitable for pharmaceutical use, sealing wafers, rice paper and similar products
- certain potatoes, prepared or preserved otherwise than by vinegar or acetic acid, frozen
- frozen orange juice
- tomato ketchup and other tomato sauces
- wine of fresh grapes, including fortified wines; certain grape must
- articles of jewelry and parts thereof, of precious metal or of metal clad with precious metal
- wooden furniture of a kind used in offices
- mattresses of materials other than cellular rubber or plastics, whether or not covered
Hopefully these tariffs won’t ever go into effect because the U.S. Congress will intervene and end mandatory COOL labeling. If the tariffs do go into effect before Congress acts, I would like to offer sincere and heartfelt condolences to Canadian consumers. When all of this is over, we should not so easily forget your involuntary sacrifice.