The World Trade Organization has again ruled against Country of Origin Labeling. The WTO compliance panel decided the rule was less favorable to meat imports from Canada and Mexico and more favorable to domestically produced meats. The ruling was announced Monday. The panel concluded the amended COOL measure “increases the original COOL measure’s detrimental impact on the competitive opportunities of imported livestock in the US market,” according to the reports released by the WTO. The panel pointed to the incentive to choose domestic over imported livestock and a higher recordkeeping burden contributed to the ruling. The United States can appeal the ruling.
Canada’s Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz told Canada Today he expected the U.S. to appeal. A U.S. Trade office spokesperson told the Hagstrom report “we are considering all options, including appealing the panels’ reports.” Earlier this year, Canadian agriculture officials said retaliations are likely if the rule is implemented. Ritz said Canada calls upon the U.S. to enact legislative change to eliminate COOL’s discriminatory treatment against Canadian hogs and cattle.”
US Farm Groups Respond to COOL Ruling
As groups respond to the recent ruling by the World Trade Organization against Country of Origin Labeling, two messages are clear. Groups opposed to the measure are calling on congress to help stop potential tariffs or bring the rule to compliance. Groups in favor of the measure vow to continue fighting for the measure, noting the WTO simply needs the rule to be in compliance with world trade rules. National Catlemen’s Beef Association President Bob McCan stated the announcement “brings us all one step closer to facing retaliatory tariffs from two of our largest trading partners.” Further, he said there is no regulatory fix to bring COOL into compliance.” The National Pork Producers Council President Howard Hill said “Congress and the White House need to address this now.” American Soybean Association President Ray Gaesser said the decision “ only solidifies what we in the industry already knew to be true: that mandatory country of origin labeling in its current state is an unworkable burden on soybean farmers’ largest customers—the animal agriculture industry.”
The United States Cattlemen’s Association reiterated strong support for the rule. USCA President Danni Beer said “The WTO has never said we cannot require country-of-origin labeling” but rather it needs to be sufficient.” He said this action by the WTO provided “no basis for false alarms about repealing the COOL statute itself. The National Farmers Union called the ruling positive that the problem is not the rule, but rather how it is to be implemented.