Canada looks to WTO on COOL

RibEyeSteak_wPotatoes_blogAs the debate over the U.S.’s country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law continues, Canadian officials have requested additional World Trade Organization (WTO) involvement.

On Monday, Canada requested a WTO compliance panel to review the rule, which changes how “muscle cut” commodities are labeled in the U.S. The rule requires the meat’s origin designation to include information not only on where the meat came from, but specifically where each step occurred such as 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.

“Canada considers that the United States has failed to bring its COOL measure into conformity with its WTO obligations,” said Minister of International Trade Ed Fast and Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Gerry Ritz in a joint statement. “We believe that the recent amendments to the COOL measure will further hinder the ability of Canadian cattle and hog producers to freely compete in the U.S. market.”

Canada’s action follows months of back and forth over the rule, including the threat of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products. Following a complaint filed last year by Canada and Mexico, the WTO Appellate Body ruled the existing COOL law violated WTO rules on technical barriers to trade. The appellate body also found COOL was not allowable because it led to “less favorable treatment” of meat from other countries and more favorable treatment of meat from the U.S.

However, the appellate body also reversed a decision stating COOL does not fulfill the goal of giving information to customers regarding origin.

In response to the ruling, the USDA published a draft of the revised COOL rule in March and issued the final rule in May. In a statement regarding the rule’s publication, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “USDA remains confident that these changes will improve the overall operation of the program and also bring the mandatory COOL requirements into compliance with U.S. international trade obligations.”

COOL also is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit between several meat industry groups and USDA.

Read more on COOL here.

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