Categorized | Food and Ag

WTO rules against U.S. COOL program

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The following article appeared at Drovers Cattle Network here.

A World Trade Organization panel has issued a preliminary ruling on the case that Canada and Mexico filed against the U.S. country-of-origin-labeling law, charging that the mandatory rule violates WTO trade standards.

Specifically, the WTO ruling upholds that requirements tied to U.S. mandatory COOL violate provisions of WTO’s agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade or TBT. The WTO panel also ruled that the mandatory COOL requirements to not meet the United States’ stated objective that the labeling law informs and helps U.S. consumers make purchasing decisions regarding the origin of meat, produce and other products covered by the labeling law.

COOL started out as a voluntary labeling program in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002—also known as the 2002 Farm Bill. It had specified that COOL would include pork, beef, lamb, fish, perishable agricultural products and peanuts, and that it would become a mandatory requirement by Sept. 30, 2004.

However, opposition mounted by numerous agricultural groups, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Council, as well as from packers, processors and retailers. COOL opponents’ argued that the program costs would far outweigh the benefits, which were not well determined, and that the marketplace and consumers should drive the need for such programs. Also, the consensus was that the effort driving COOL smacked of protectionism.

The mandatory version of COOL went into effect on March 19, 2009. Six months later, Canada filed a complaint with WTO, and Mexico quickly followed suit. The two countries’ trade officials argued that U.S. mandatory COOL amounted to an illegal, non-tariff trade barrier, and treated U.S. products more favorably than those from Canada and Mexico.

The WTO’s preliminary ruling was actually issued May 20, and there will now be a 30-days comment period. WTO officials have indicated that a final, public ruling will likely come sometime in September. The U.S. government will have two months to decide whether to appeal the WTO’s decision. As NPPC officials point out, such WTO decisions are typically appealed.

Long term, if the WTO ruling stands, the United States will have to dissolve mandatory COOL or risk trade retaliations from Mexico and Canada, both of which are major U.S. trading partners.

3 Responses to “WTO rules against U.S. COOL program”

  1. robert says:

    So now the consumer has no idea where goods and food come from – stuff that is downright dangerous to use or consume. Where are the “consumer protection” people when you need them on a real problem? The root of the problem goes right back to DC. What kind of people do we have “working for us?”

  2. Karen Hansen says:

    Unbelievable! As someone who believes in food safety and fought for COOL information, I am amazed at how many people fail to recognize the amount of sovereignty and consumer protections we have sacrificed in the U.S. through our so-called “free” trade agreements and membership in the WTO. The WTO isn’t about reducing trade barriers. It is about institutionalizing the corporatization of our world!

  3. Adam Reiser says:

    We only have 7 Beef Processors and the MULTI Nationals have their way again.

    How about we take back our county one FARM and PRODUCT at a time.

    Now that the LAW is illegal we have the solution.

    PRODUCT of USA CERTIFIED ™

    Lets protect our FOOD SOURCE !!!!!!

    Please visit MADE in USA CERTIFIED INC Websites
    http://usa-c.com

    We have tracking software unique ID’s and can tell you where the stuff came from.

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