The 206-page document, released on Monday morning, is now being digested by the industry.
Industry reaction is starting to stream in after the World Trade Organization’s COOL decision was made public on Monday morning. To read the document, which is over 200 pages, CLICK HERE.
For more analysis of what the decision means, please read “WTO Rules Against COOL.”
Reaction from the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association:
USCA (Oct. 20, 2014) – The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) reiterated their continued strong support for country-of-origin labeling (COOL) today, despite a disappointing decision from the World Trade Organization that COOL regulations are in some respects inconsistent with U.S. trade obligations. The ruling results from a challenge to COOL filed by Canada and Mexico at the WTO in 2008.
“The WTO has never said we cannot require country-of-origin labeling,” said USCA President Danni Beer. “The WTO has only explained that COOL has to be implemented in a way that conveys sufficient origin information to the consumer. USCA strongly supported the revised COOL regulations issued in response to that original WTO decision, and we continue to believe those rules are WTO consistent.”
“While we will continue to review the WTO’s decision, we urge the U.S. Trade Representative to consider appealing the ruling if there are meritorious grounds to do so,” continued Beer. “In addition, we ask USDA to review the ruling to determine whether additional regulatory changes may permit the U.S. to come into compliance without weakening COOL.”
“USCA has tirelessly defended COOL from attack not only at the WTO, but also in our domestic courts and the halls of Congress,” continued Beer. “We will continue to do so in light of today’s decision, and we look forward to working with the Administration to address the decision in the most constructive way possible.”
“There may still be many months before the WTO process reaches a final result,” Beer cautioned. “Today’s ruling provides no basis for false alarms about repealing the COOL statute itself. Congress should continue to resist such premature and unfounded calls to weaken a law that enjoys such strong support from America’s consumers, ranchers, and producers.”
Reaction from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association:
WASHINGTON (Oct. 20, 2014) – Statement by National Cattlemen's Beef Association President Bob McCan, Victoria, Texas, cattleman regarding the public announcement by the WTO on the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling rule:
“The announcement today by the WTO dispute panel on the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling rule brings us all one step closer to facing retaliatory tariffs from two of our largest trading partners. Our producers have already suffered discounts and faced the closure of a number of feedlots and packing plants due to the effects of this short-sighted regulation. COOL is a failed program that will soon cost not only the beef industry, but the entire U.S. economy, with no corresponding benefit to consumers or producers.
“NCBA has maintained that there is no regulatory fix to bring the COOL rule into compliance with our WTO obligations or that will satisfy our top trading partners. We look forward to working with Congress to find a permanent solution to this issue, avoiding retaliation against not only beef, but a host of U.S. products.”
Canada’s list of products for possible trade retaliation can be found here. Mexico has yet to release their list of targeted products.
Billings, Mont. – The much anticipated ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding whether country of origin labeling (COOL) passes muster with the international tribunal was finally made public today. The U.S. COOL law requires retailers to inform consumers as to the origins of meat.
The WTO has, for the second time, found in favor of the complaining parties because, according to the WTO, the COOL law continues to treat imported livestock less favorably than that accorded to domestic livestock.
As it did in 2012, the WTO is again recommending that the United States take steps to bring COOL into compliance with the WTO's interpretation of the United States' obligations under the world's international trade laws.
“We anticipated this unfavorable WTO ruling and believe, as nearly one-third of the Senate believes, that the U.S. has the tools to address this ruling without weakening or suspending COOL,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.
“While we will be reviewing this lengthy decision to determine what, if any, additional modifications should be made to COOL, we urge the United States to exercise its right to appeal this decision and we fully expect that this dispute over COOL will continue at the WTO for many more months if not years,” Bullard added.
Congress first passed the consumer-friendly COOL law in 2002 but heated resistance from international meatpackers delayed its implementation until 2008. Almost immediately, Canada and Mexico, joined by world meat exporters Australia and Brazil, along with five other countries, challenged the U.S. law at the WTO.
In 2012 a three-member WTO panel ruled that livestock from Canada and Mexico were being treated less favorably than U.S. livestock under the COOL law and regulations.
Contrary to U.S. jurisprudence that would disallow such a blatant conflict of interest, one of the WTO's three-member panelists that decided the case in favor of Canada and Mexico was a Mexican national.
Nevertheless, in an attempt to appease the WTO the United States rewrote the implementing regulations for COOL in 2013. The new regulations improved COOL by removing loopholes that had allowed multinational meatpackers to mislabel exclusively U.S. meat with a mixed-country label. It also provided consumers more detailed information regarding where the animal from which the meat was derived was born, where it was raised and where it was slaughtered.
But Canada and Mexico renewed their complaints at the WTO alleging that livestock from their respective countries continue to be less competitive in the U.S. market under the new COOL regulations.
Canada and Mexico also attacked COOL in a lawsuit by filing arguments against COOL on behalf of their respective governments in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The U.S. court ruled against Canada and Mexico and concluded that COOL complies with the U.S. Constitution and that Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had authority to pass and implement the law, respectively.
Today's WTO ruling in favor of Canada and Mexico creates a serious dilemma for the United States:
“On the one hand our U.S. courts have found COOL to be in full compliance with the United States' chosen form of government. On the other hand, the so-called world government, comprised of unelected and unappointed WTO officials, is now trying to supersede U.S. citizens' right of self-governance.
“Congress must weigh this WTO ruling against our U.S. Constitution and our U.S. sovereignty very carefully and not engage in a knee-jerk reaction, which is precisely what the multinational meatpackers that do not have any particular loyalties to the United States, are asking Congress to do through their request that funding for COOL be stricken from the 2015 appropriations bill,” Bullard said.
Nearly one-third of the U.S. Senate recently sent a letter to the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee that essentially urges no knee-jerk reaction by Congress in response to today's WTO decision.
The bipartisan Senate letter, drafted by Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), expressly states that “the United States government has tools to address the outcome, once the WTO process reaches finality, to ensure labeling remains consistent with our trade obligations.”
“We fully agree with the Senators statement and we recommend that the United States exercise its right to appeal this WTO decision while simultaneously exploring our options to further strengthen COOL in the face of this international attack,” Bullard commented.
“Congress should not capitulate to the WTO's and the multinational meatpackers' efforts to weaken our COOL law,” Bullard said adding “we must take the time to carefully analyze this ruling and then formulate a strategy for preserving our important, pro-competitive COOL law for U.S. citizens who deserve to know where their food is produced.”
Following the release today of the World Trade Organization’s decision on the U.S. meat labeling law, the National Pork Producers Council urged the Obama administration and Congress to fix the law to avoid trade retaliation from Canada and Mexico.
As expected, the WTO ruled that the mandatory Country-Of-Origin Labeling (COOL) statute violates U.S. international trade obligations by discriminating against Canadian cattle and pigs and Mexican cattle. COOL requires meat to be labeled with the country where the animal from which it was derived was born, raised and slaughtered. The decision could allow the two countries to place tariffs on U.S. imports.
“The United States must avoid retaliation from Canada and Mexico,” said NPPC President Howard Hill, a veterinarian and pork producer from Cambridge, Iowa. “Retaliatory tariffs on pork would be financially devastating to U.S. pork producers.”
But, pointed out Hill, tariffs likely would be placed on a host of U.S. products, including non-agricultural ones.
As it did in a 2012 ruling on a previous version of COOL, the WTO requested that the United States bring the “inconsistent measure into conformity with its [international trade] obligations.”
NPPC opposed COOL when it was being debated by Congress as part of the 2002 Farm Bill, worked for flexibility in the labeling scheme when lawmakers said it would be part of the 2008 Farm Bill and joined with several other meat organizations in filing a lawsuit against the most recent iteration of the regulation implementing the law.
NPPC supports an approach to labeling that provides important information to consumers, complies with U.S. international trade obligations and does not undermine U.S. meat supply chains and unnecessarily raise costs.
“The United States economy can’t afford to have its products restricted, through tariffs, to its No. 1 and 2 exports markets,” Hill said. “Congress and the White House need to address this now.”
National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson said that today’s ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) can be handled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and reminded lawmakers of the strong support by the public and in rural America for the popular labeling law.
“American consumers want to know where their food comes from, and America’s family farmers and ranchers are proud to provide that information,” said Johnson. “Nothing about today’s ruling changes that rudimentary fact.”
This most recent challenge to COOL, filed by Canada and Mexico, challenges the final rule put forward by USDA and comes on the heels of an earlier WTO ruling that found the U.S. has the right to require labeling of meat products, but found fault with how the rule was implemented.
“Under the guidance of USDA, any changes to COOL to ensure full compliance with today’s decision should be able to be made administratively, while maintaining the integrity of COOL labels,” said Johnson.
A May 2013 public opinion poll found that more than 90 percent of consumers support COOL, and feelings for the labeling law are equally strong in rural America. “We are confident that given that level of support, Congress will reject all heavy-handed attempts to make legislative changes to this important labeling law,” said Johnson.
Since its passage in 2002, COOL has been under constant attack both domestically, by the U.S. meat industry, and internationally. On each and every domestic occasion, the rulings have come down in support of COOL.
This recent ruling will likely take many months to resolve, since it will undoubtedly be appealed, and the WTO process is slow moving. Just as NFU has played an active role in legally defending this rule in U.S. courts – and has so far won every legal ruling in court – NFU will also work with USDA and U.S. Trade Representative to see that our WTO rights are protected and that we will comply with any final WTO decisions. Now is not the time to change the law. It is the time to see the WTO process through to an ultimate conclusion.
© Northern Ag Network 2014