Mexico has joined Canada by filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization opposing a new U.S. law on country-of-origin labeling for fresh beef and pork. Receipt of the complaint by the WTO starts a 60-day consultation period between Mexican and U.S. authorities. After that, Mexico can ask the WTO to set up an investigative panel. Such trade disputes can result in punitive sanctions, but usually after years of litigation.
Canada's government filed its complaint earlier this month, saying it was concerned the U.S. rules were discriminating against Canadian agricultural exporters. Canadian farm groups say a growing number of meat plants in the U.S. are refusing to accept Canadian cattle and hogs for processing since the country-of-origin labeling law went into effect on Oct. 1.
Under country-of-origin labeling, foreign cattle and pigs must be segregated in U.S. feedlots and packing plants, prompting some firms to only deal with American livestock. Foreign animals are also required to have more documentation about where they come from and, in the case of cattle, must have tags that indicate they are free of BSE.