The answer is as follows:
(i) The comment period provided in the official U.S. federal register notice for the interim voluntary country-of-origin labelling, COL, program ends on April 9, 2003. Upon completion of the comment period, drafting of mandatory regulations will begin through the normal U.S. rule-making process, which will include a proposal and an opportunity for public comment. Mandatory COL is scheduled to be implemented by September 30, 2004. Until this date, COL is a voluntary program in the U.S. As a result of the complexity of the provision and U.S. industry opposition to the measure, widespread implementation of the interim voluntary COL guidelines is not anticipated.
(ii) Poultry is not a covered commodity under the COL law.
(iii) Preliminary analysis of the COL provision indicated that it would have a serious adverse trade effect on Canadian exports of covered commodities to the U.S., for those items that are currently co-mingled at retail with U.S. product, and which now carry no distinction as to country-of-origin. While attempts have been made, it is very difficult to accurately measure the impact on farm income because of the complexity and sheer size of the U.S. agri-food industry, a great deal of uncertainty as to the possible response of the U.S. industry to mandatory COL, the high level of market integration among the U.S., Canada and Mexico, as well as the fact that the U.S. has not yet published regulations for the mandatory implementation of COL. Attempts that have been made to assess the impact of mandatory COL implementation, such as a congressionally mandated USDA study, as well as a study published by the George Morris Center, and most recently a report commissioned by the U.S. national pork producers council, confirm our decision to oppose mandatory COL.
Prior to U.S. farm bill being passed into law, Canada's opposition to COL was articulated at the highest levels. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food raised the issue with cabinet-level officials (Agriculture Secretary Veneman and U.S. Trade Representative Zoellick) as early as September 2001. Deputy Prime Minister Manley raised farm bill issues with Vice-President Cheney during their meeting on March 8, 2002, and the Prime Minister raised these same issues with President Bush during their meeting on March 14, 2002.
On February 7, 2002, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food again raised Canadian concerns about COL with Secretary Veneman, and on February 12, 2002, he raised the matter with Mr. Paul Cellucci, the U.S Ambassador to Canada. On March 18, 2002, Canada's ambassador in turn wrote to the congressional conference directors, who were responsible at the time with reconciling the house and senate versions of the farm bill. He detailed our specific concerns with the proposed legislation and insured that copies of these views were also distributed to other influential voices in Washington in order to re-emphasize these same concerns. During an April 2002 trip to Washington with Canadian industry representatives, and in a bilateral meeting with Secretary Veneman on May 3, 2002, held in Ottawa, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food again expressed Canadian concerns that this legislation would disrupt bilateral trade. COL remains a priority issue for the Government of Canada, GOC.
Canada is currently focussing its efforts on marshaling the best-possible case for why U.S. stakeholders should demand the repeal of the COL law, including participation in a private U.S.-based consortium that is anticipated to produce analysis critical of COL from within the U.S. The government of Canada has been working with industry and the provinces to share information and to develop and implement a cooperative, strategic response to have the entire U.S. COL provision repealed before it becomes mandatory.
Consultations are ongoing with industry and the federal-provincial agriculture trade policy committee to share information and to gather input into strategy development. The Manitoba Pork Board, Canadian Pork Council, Canadian Meat Council, Canadian Cattlemen's Association, Canadian Sheep Federation, Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Fisheries Council of Canada and the Canadian Horticultural Council are among the participants in these consultations. Organized under the agricultural policy framework, the agenda of the recent beef value-chain round table that took place on January 27 and 28 in Calgary focussed on coordinating the beef industry's strategy on COL with that of the GOC. In outreach activities, government officials have made presentations on COL at a number of national industry association meetings as well as to the seafood sectorial advisory group on international trade, SAGIT, C-Trade (i.e. a federal-provincial committee of trade ministries and departments), and broader stakeholder meetings in Mississauga, Moncton and Fredericton and at a meeting in Chicago on COL.
Canada is active in the U.S. domestic debate through trade-advocacy initiatives targeted at provoking the repeal of the U.S. COL legislation. On July 9, 2002, the GOC, in consultation with industry and the provinces, submitted comments to USDA that were influential in shaping discussion in the U.S. in advance of the release of the interim voluntary COL guidelines. Similarly, on January 17, 2003, comments on the interim-voluntary guidelines were submitted to USDA on the “utility” of the measure and on January 21, 2003, comments were submitted on a USDA proposal for information-gathering related to the drafting of the mandatory regulations.
Other targeted advocacy activities in the U.S. have included Assistant Deputy Minister Mark Corey's participation in the tri-national accord meeting in May 14-17, 2002, in Nogales, Arizona, and a meeting in Chicago organized by the province-state advisory group in July 2002, which was dedicated specifically to COL. This meeting brought together U.S. states, provinces and federal government officials from both sides of the border. Canadian embassy and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, AAFC, officials presented Canada's position on COL on the margins of the U.S. farm bureau convention in Tampa, Florida, January 17-19, 2003 and at “Canada Day on Capitol Hill” in Washington on February 5, 2003. Embassy officials are also participating in a U.S. industry-led coalition in Washington and are engaged in other ongoing efforts to have COL repealed.
Bilaterally, Canada made strong interventions opposing COL at the November 15, 2002, meeting of the Canada-U.S. consultative committee on agriculture, CCA. COL is a priority item on the agenda of the next meeting of the committee scheduled for April, 2003. Interventions have been made by Canada on the U.S. notification of COL in the World Trade Organization's technical barriers to trade committee, and will be pursued in future meetings of the Committee and other international forums where appropriate. Development of a formal trade challenge is ongoing as information is made available and milestones are reached on the way to the scheduled mandatory implementation of COL in 2004.