WTO to intervene in COOL dispute

RibEyeSteak_wPotatoes_blogFollowing requests from Canada and Mexico, the World Trade Organization (WTO) recently announced plans to take another look at the U.S.’s country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law.

The WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) has said it will convene a panel to investigate whether the U.S. COOL law is in compliance with earlier WTO rulings. The panel will be made up of the same members who sat on the panel in 2009, when the issue was first investigated. Canada and Mexico have maintained that the U.S. law unfairly favors U.S. products and hinders the success of Canadian and Mexican meat products in U.S. markets.

If the panel finds COOL still violates WTO rules, Canadian officials have said they may seek approval to set retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products. Canada first mentioned these tariffs this summer and released a list in June of targeted commodities, including live cattle and swine, cattle and swine meat, cheese, apples, corn and maple syrup.

COOL also has come under fire in the U.S., and is the target of a lawsuit from several major meat industry organizations. However, an injunction aimed at halting implementation of the law until the lawsuit was resolved was defeated in court in September. The groups heading up the lawsuit have said they plan to appeal that ruling.

In May, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the final COOL rule, which it said brought the law into compliance with the earlier WTO ruling. The updated rule changed how muscle cut commodities are labeled, specifically by now requiring the origin designation on the product label to include information not only on where the meat came from (often listed as “Product of the U.S.”), but also where each step of the process occurred. This includes where the animal was born, where it was raised and where it was slaughtered. Additionally, the rule also would not allow muscle cuts of different origins to be commingled, according to USDA.

Read more on COOL here.

Comments are closed.