The World Trade Organization (WTO) rejected the United States’ appeal of last year’s decision regarding the US country-of-origin labeling law, or COOL law, ruling Monday that the law discriminates against Canadian and Mexican livestock.
The COOL law requires a label to be placed on meat packages according to where a product originated from detailing where an animal was born, raised and slaughtered. Consumer groups lobbied for the rule, but Canada and Mexico complained to the WTO, which sided with them. If implemented, some in the food industry feel Canadian and Mexican retaliation against American beef exports would be unavoidable.
In October last year, WTO’s compliance panel ruled in favor of Canada and Mexico finding the COOL measures treated Canadian and Mexican livestock less favorable than those from the US.
Specifically, the WTO concluded “the amended COOL measure increases the original COOL measure's detrimental impact on the competitive opportunities of imported livestock in the US market, because it necessitates increased segregation of meat and livestock according to origin; entails a higher recordkeeping burden; and increases the original COOL measure's incentive to choose domestic over imported livestock.”
The US filed its appeal less than two months later. US courts previously found the law did not violate free speech.
Some in the food and beverage industry are urging Congress to reform the COOL law in order to be in compliance with WTO rules, while others simply wish the issue would die.
The International Dairy Foods Association called for immediate government intervention to avoid retaliatory tariffs it says will cost the country billions.
“We need Congress to act immediately to ensure US compliance with its WTO obligations,” said Beth Hughes, IDFA director of international affairs. “That’s the only way to mitigate the ruling’s negative impact on the U.S. manufacturing and agricultural economies, and to save thousands of American jobs.”
“If there ever was any question that that mandatory country-of-origin labeling is a trade barrier that violates our international agreements, WTO’s ruling against the US should lay those doubts to rest,” said Barry Carpenter, CEO of the North America Meat Institute calling the rule costly and onerous. “The WTO has spoken not once, not twice, not three times, but four times in panel and appellate body decisions. All four rulings found against the US.”
Carpenter said it’s clear a repeal of the law would be the best move going forward.