Switzerland played host to a meeting of the North American Free Trade Agreement countries this week as Canada and Mexico took the United States' regulations on mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) before the World Trade Organization (WTO). The hearings took place Sept 14-16.
Hearings before the WTO's dispute settlement panel begin Tuesday in Geneva with presentations from the Canadian and Mexican governments' legal teams, which also answered questions from the WTO panelists. The U.S. government was also scheduled Tuesday to put forward its defense of COOL.
Observer countries in the dispute were scheduled to make their statements Wednesday.
The legal teams from Canada, Mexico and the United States were scheduled to return Thursday to answer questions from the panel and rebut each other's presentations.
These hearings are an important step in the dispute process but will not produce an immediate decision. There will be a period in October and November for further written information and rebuttals to the panel and a second round of oral hearings will take place in early December. A report with the panel's decision is scheduled for July 2011.
Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, the European Union, Guatemala, India, South Korea, New Zealand, Peru and Taiwan have all reserved their third party rights in these cases.
Reprinted in part from cattlenetwork.com