Canada's trade minister Chrystia Freeland said on Wednesday she strongly encouraged U.S. lawmakers to "get the job done" to repeal country of origin meat labeling rules.
The dispute between the two countries appeared to take a step closer to resolution as U.S. congressional negotiators wrapped up talks on Tuesday over a spending deal that includes the repeal of federal laws mandating meat packers identify where animals are raised and slaughtered.
"We've been very pleased to see the repeal of COOL in the appropriations bill," Freeland told reporters, using the acronym for the country of origin labeling rules.
"I want to strongly encourage the Senate to get the job done - repeal COOL."
The spat stems from a 2009 U.S. requirement that retail outlets label food with information about its origin. Freeland said that she was "cautiously optimistic" about the developments out of Washington this week.
Still, Canada has other options. The World Trade Organization earlier this month authorized Canada to retaliate against the United States over the meat-labeling rules, known as COOL, setting the annual level at C$1.055 billion ($764 million), though that was less than Canada had sought.
Minister of Agriculture Lawrence MacAulay, speaking alongside Freeland, made it clear that option was open for Canada.
"The bottom line is it must be repealed or we will retaliate," MacAulay said.
(Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Chris Reese and Chizu Nomiyama)