A challenge to the Mandatory COOL rule issued by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) on May 23 has been filed by six U.S. plaintiffs; American Association of Meat Processors, American Meat Institute, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Association and Southwest Meat Association and two Canadian plaintiffs; the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and the Canadian Pork Council. No Mexican groups signed on to the suit. R-CALF, a long-time strong proponent of country of origin labeling, thought the suit was without merit.
The legal challenge to the USDA decision was announced during a Tuesday press conference by the lead plaintiff, the American Meat Institute. They’re asking for preliminary injunctive relief, citing irreparable harm to the industry if the ruling goes forward. The alternative would have been to wait until the World Trade Organization or U.S. Congress organization could act on the new ruling. A wise decision; WTO moves with all the speed of an Alaskan glacier in January, a politically paralyzed U.S. Congress doesn’t move at all. Any action taken during the lifetime of most participants will have to be up to American courts.
Defending the suit from north of the border, Canadian Pork Council Chair Jean-Guy Vincent said in a release, "This will likely lead to increased prices for consumers."
Canadian Cattlemen’s Association President Martin Unrau said, “The CCA is forced to take this step with its allies as the USDA chooses to continue down a path of unfair trade discrimination that undermines the job security of American workers and harms the U.S. meat processing industry in addition to placing an unfair burden on Canadian cattle producers.”
After losing their case with the World Trade Organization which ordered the United States to comply with WTO rules by May 23, the U.S. Department of Agriculture revised their COOL rules with wording that Canada and Mexico said would make the situation worse. A press release, co-signed by all participants in the suit, said, “In a highly illogical move, USDA made COOL requirements even more complex and discriminatory against foreign meat and livestock, and Canada and Mexico have already made clear that the new rule does nothing to ease the concerns that prompted their original complaint.”
In other words, as far as Canada and Mexico are concerned, the game is still on.
The Canadian government had already announced it would ask the WTO to approve proposed retaliatory measures against the U.S., including tariffs on meat, cherries, rice and other products. Mexico is considering suspending preferential trade tariffs with the United States over the dispute.