Thursday, May 21, 2015

Just in from Washington

WTO rejects COOL ruling appeal

Washington—With the World Trade Organization dispute panel’s ruling that U.S. Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations for meats are not in compliance with previous WTO decisions, further efforts must be made to craft an acceptable COOL program, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

“Farm Bureau will carefully review the decision and then determine recommended actions,” Stallman said in a statement. “We will work with Congress, USDA and USTR to reach the goal of an effective COOL program that conforms to international trade rules.”

The appellate panel reviewed, at the request of the U.S., the October 2014 dispute settlement panel’s decision against the U.S. on the amended COOL rules. These rules were developed in response to the WTO appellate body ruling in June 2012 that the COOL meat labeling rules, issued in Jan. 2009 by USDA, unfairly discriminated against livestock raised in Canada and Mexico. The May 2013 rules from USDA added additional labeling requirements, including the country locations where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered.

The appellate panel confirmed the earlier decision that the amended COOL rules accorded less favorable treatment to imported livestock than to U.S. livestock. The panel determined that the COOL rules provided an advantage to U.S. livestock producers due to the extra costs associated with segregating animals.

The recent ruling allows Canada and Mexico to ask the WTO to determine a retaliation level, based on their losses due to the COOL regulations on meats. A WTO panel will then have 60 days to set the retaliation amount. Canada and Mexico could then impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods.

Introduction of legislation to address the COOL issue is expected. AFBF supports a country-of-origin labeling program that adheres to appropriate parameters and meets WTO requirements.

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