Contributing Lawyers


Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross


Andrew Hudson

Potentially A New NAFTA or WTO Case Between Canada and the U.S

On November 2, 2008, the Canadian Press reported that Canadian beef and pork producers want Ottawa to commence trade actions against the United States over a new law that is already starting to shut their livestock out of American markets.  The Canadian Cattlemen's Association and the Canadian Pork Council are calling on the Government of Canada to challenge the U.S. country of origin labelling requirement that went into effect on October 1, 2008 and to make an announcement of its intentions before Dec. 1. Together the two groups represent about 100,000 producers.

The Canadian Press reports that "Since Washington's country of origin labelling law went into effect on Oct. 1, a growing number of meat plants in the U.S. are refusing to accept Canadian cattle and hogs for processing."

The problems are not merely hypothetical.  The Canadian Press reports that  "[t]he pork council said U.S. hog processing companies, such as Smithfield and Hormel, have already indicated they will no longer purchase hogs born outside of the states. Other U.S. processors have said they will only buy Canadian pigs on certain days at selected plants."   In addition, "[t]he cattlemen's association says some corporations, including Tyson, are already refusing Canadian cattle and that others such as Cargill may only slaughter Canadian cattle on certain days."

Under country of origin labelling, Canadian cattle and pigs must be segregated in U.S. feedlots and packing plants, which results in an incentive for some U.S. plants to only deal with American livestock. Further, Canadian animals are also required to have more documentation about where they came from, and in the case of cattle, the animals must have tags that indicate they are free of mad cow disease.

If a case were to be launched, this would be the first NAFTA dispute between Canada and the United States in over 10 years.

For more information about this potential NAFTA or WTO challenge, please contact Cyndee Todgham Cherniak, Counsel at Lang Michener LLP and adjunct professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law (416-307-4168).

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