Canadian official: ‘Product of USA’ label concerning, but not trade barrier

The Agriculture Department’s proposed voluntary “Product of USA” label for meat, poultry and egg products is concerning to the Canadian government, but it is not considered a trade barrier, Arun Alexander, the deputy chief of mission at the Canadian Embassy told the North American Agricultural Journalists at an embassy luncheon on April 25.

The proposed rule allows the voluntary “Product of USA” or “Made in the USA” label to be used on meat, poultry and egg products only when they are derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the United States.

The current rule is not as strict, and allows meat that could come from animals from other countries but is processed in the United States to be labeled as a U.S. product.

n a speech on the broad Canadian-U.S. agricultural relationship, Arun said, “Despite the fact that we support efforts related to truth in labelling for consumers, we are concerned about the potential real world consequences of the proposed rule on the integration of the Canada-U.S. supply chains for meat, livestock and producers of processed products.”

During a question-and-answer period, Arun acknowledged that Canada has its own “Product of Canada” food label that, according to the Canadian government, can be applied “when all or virtually all major ingredients, processing, and labor used to make the food product are Canadian.”

Arun said that the Canadian government is concerned that the integrated supply chain that takes place along the Canadian-U.S. border can continue to operate efficiently, but that Canada does not consider the voluntary label a trade barrier that would result in Canada trying to make an international trade case out of the proposed U.S. label.

When the United States established a mandatory labeling regime for meat that resulted in U.S. meat plants rejecting Canadian animals, Canada and Mexico made the argument to the World Trade Organization that the labeling regime was a violation of WTO rules, and won the case.

“We believe there are ways to work together to achieve the twin goals of improved truth in labelling for consumers, while also ensuring the continued integration of our supply chains to the mutual benefit of both American and Canadian ranchers, farmers, processors, retailers and consumers,” Arun said.

“Canada will participate in the USDA’s consultation process and we hope to have the opportunity for constructive exchanges with our U.S. counterparts on this important issue,” Arun added. “At the end of the day, we all want to see the agriculture sector and those involved, succeed.”

Arun devoted most of his speech to the successful integrated Canadian-U.S. agriculture and food industries.