UPDATE 1-U.S. must comply with WTO meat-labeling ruling by May
* Labeling program ruled unfair to Canada, Mexico meat
* U.S. had asked for until 2014 to comply
Dec 4 (Reuters) - The United States must bring its country-of-origin meat labeling rules into compliance with an earlier World Trade Organization ruling by May 23, 2013, according to a WTO decision on Tuesday, the Canadian government said.
The WTO ruled on June 29 that the U.S. country-of-origin labeling program, known as COOL, unfairly discriminated against Canada and Mexico because it gave less favorable treatment to beef and pork imported from those countries, which brought the case, than to U.S. meat.
That decision gave the United States an unspecified amount of time to comply.
The labeling program has led to a sharp reduction in U.S. imports of Canadian pigs and cattle, because it forced U.S. packers to segregate those animals from U.S. livestock at greater cost. Some U.S. groups, however, have said COOL offers consumers valuable information about the origin of their food.
"We expect that the U.S. will bring itself into compliance with its WTO obligations by May 2013 as determined by the arbitrator for the benefit of producers on both sides of the border," Canadian International Trade Minister Ed Fast and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a joint statement.
"We are particularly pleased that the arbitrator determined a reasonable period of time close to that proposed by Canada and Mexico, as opposed to the much longer period suggested by the United States."
According to the Canadian ministers, the United States had asked for until Jan. 23, 2014 to comply. Canada and Mexico had asked for compliance by late January and March of 2013 respectively.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative was not immediately available for comment.