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Apples, cherries on Canada's retaliation list over COOL dispute

WASHINGTON — Canadian trade officials released a wide-ranging list of commodities, including fresh apples and cherries, that may become the target of retaliatory tariffs if a dispute over country-of-origin labeling of livestock is not resolved.

The World Trade Organization found USDA's COOL program discriminated against imported livestock and gave U.S. authorities until May 23 to bring the COOL rule into compliance.

USDA met the deadline and released a final rule that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said would bring the mandatory COOL requirements into compliance with U.S. international trade obligations.

But Canadian authorities disagreed and announced plans on June 7 to move to the next step in the trade dispute process.

"Our government is extremely disappointed that the United States continues to uphold this protectionist policy, which the WTO has ruled to be unfair, and we call on the United States to abide by the WTO ruling," Ed Fast, minister of international trade, and Gerry Ritz, minister of agriculture, said in a June 7 joint statement.

"We are preparing to launch the next phase of the WTO dispute settlement process on the new U.S. rule, which we had hoped to avoid by the United States living up to its trade obligations," they added. "Today, we are also releasing a list of U.S. commodities for possible retaliation, to be published as soon as possible in the Canada Gazette, as a way to formally launch the consultation process," the trade officials said.

The list includes a wide range of items, including live animals, meat, poultry, maple syrup, fresh apples and cherries.

Canada is the leading destination for U.S. fresh fruit, generally accounting for over one-third of all fresh fruit exports, USDA records show. Canada is the second top export market for Northwest-grown apples and the top market for sweet cherries, according to the Northwest Horticulture Council.

The retaliation measures are not expected to be in place soon, however.

"Our government will continue to consult with stakeholders as we pursue a fair resolution of this issue through the WTO over the next 18 to 24 months," Canada's trade officials said. "To respect Canada's WTO obligations, our government will not act on these retaliatory measures until the WTO authorizes us to do so."