USTR will appeal WTO ruling on COOL

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, March 23 - The U.S. government plans to appeal the World Trade Organization's (WTO) panel decision against a law requiring Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) on all meat products sold in grocery stores.

The WTO case, which was brought by officials in Canada and Mexico, challenged the U.S. meat labels that became mandatory in 2009 because they said the U.S. rules were too stringent and caused their livestock exports to the U.S. to decline 

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“The government is appealing as a signal of our commitment to helping ensure that our consumers are provided with accurate and relevant information with respect to the origin of beef and pork products and signalling that we will continue to fight for the interests of U.S. consumers at the WTO,” explained Tim Reif, General Counsel at the U.S. Trade Representative's office, during an AgriTalk interview Friday morning.
To be listed as U.S. origin, meat must come from animals born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S. However, meat from livestock raised in Mexico or Canada but slaughtered in the U.S. must be labeled as a product of mixed origin.

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson expressed NFU's support of the decision by U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk. 

“NFU has been an ardent proponent for COOL from its inception,” said Johnson. “We will refuse to accept the WTO's recent decision without a vigorous fight and are pleased the USTR has taken the same stance.”

NFU delegates recently passed a special order of business regarding COOL at the organization's convention earlier this month. The order encouraged resolving the dispute while preserving the country-of-origin labeling law. It stated that the USTR must appeal the WTO decision because it is a frontal assault on U.S. sovereignty, the transparency and integrity of our domestic markets, adversely impacts U.S. food consumers by denying them the information they need to make informed buying decisions, denies U.S. farmers and ranchers the opportunity to differentiate their high quality food products in their own U.S. marketplace, and will compound the problems of a negative balance of trade deficit.

In addition to meat products, Country of Origin labeling is required for seafood, fruits, vegetables and ginseng as well as peanuts, pecans and macadamia nuts, but the WTO challenge from Mexico and Canada applied only to meat.



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