WASHINGTON, June 27, 2014 – A broad group of agricultural organizations is asking Congress to take action on the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rule if it is found to be in violation of U.S. international trade obligations.
More than 50 industry organizations concerned about implications of a pending World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling on the compliance of the COOL rule reached out to congressional leaders to urge them to direct the Secretary of Agriculture to indefinitely suspend the rule if it is found to be in violation of trade obligations.
In a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, the coalition urged immediate action after a ruling.
“We respectfully submit that it would be intolerable for the United States to maintain, even briefly, a rule that has been deemed non-compliant by the WTO,” the coalition said in the letter. “With little potential for quick Congressional action after a WTO final adjudication, we request that Congress authorize and direct the Secretary of Agriculture to suspend indefinitely the revised COOL rule for muscle cuts of meat upon a final adjudication of non-compliance with WTO obligations.”
According to the coalition, both Canada and Mexico have indicated they will seek to retaliate against the U.S. if the WTO rules the new COOL rule noncompliant. Canada has even gone as far as to specifically name potential sanctions against the United States. Mexico has not formally announced any potential sanctions.
The WTO in November 2011 ruled against a previous version of the COOL rule, finding that it treated imported livestock less favorably than U.S. livestock (particularly in the labeling of beef and pork muscle cuts), and did not meet its objective to provide complete information to consumers on the origin of meat products. The international trade body gave the U.S. until May 23, 2013, to bring the rule into WTO compliance. It is that revised rule on which the WTO will rule and that the coalition is seeking to suspend.
The House appropriations bill goes after country of origin labeling (COOL), directing USDA not to implement or enforce a final COOL rule should the WTO rule against the U.S.
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