WTO sets deadline for U.S. compliance on Country of Origin Labeling
The World Trade Organization set a deadline of May 23, 2013, for the United States to modify its requirements for Country of Origin Labeling for meat. The ruling stated that a period of 10 months from July 23, 2012, the date the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body issued its rulings on the issue, is a reasonable time for implementation.
The dispute stems from the 2009 COOL final rule, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued after Congress passed COOL. Canada and Mexico "vehemently" oppose the rule and filed a complaint with the WTO. Mexico and Canada argued that COOL violates previous trade agreements by including less favorable treatment to imported livestock than to like domestic livestock. The WTO ruled in favor of Canada and Mexico, leading to a failed appeal from the United States.
According to WTO documents, the United States has agreed to bring COOL policies into compliance with existing trade agreements, but contends that it will need at least 12 months to complete the US regulatory process due to the technical complexities of the COOL measure. It will require, at the outset, a period of at least five months to conduct discussions and review options, to build and organize the broad support necessary for modifications to the COOL regulations, and to prepare a draft rule for internal clearance.
Missouri Cattlemen's Association Executive Vice President Mike Deering said the WTO's original ruling proves COOL was not only a disservice to U.S. cattlemen and cattlewomen but also contained far-reaching implications for two of the most important trade partners for U.S. agriculture.
"MCA strongly advises U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to work with pro-trade organizations and Congress to bring the United States into WTO compliance across the board. WTO's ruling in this matter solidifies our concerns that COOL would have extensive trade implications as were expressed during 2008 Farm Bill deliberations. U.S. livestock producers have yet to see any financial benefit from COOL provisions," said Deering. "In many cases, ranchers who feed imported cattle have incurred significant discounts, which have not been offset by benefits proponents of COOL claimed would be available. Just as importantly, cattlemen have yet to discern any positive reaction from consumers regarding mandatory origin labeling."
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