Trade retaliation is imminent unless Congress repeals a U.S. meat labeling law, said the National Pork Producers Council, following today’s World Trade Organization decision upholding an earlier ruling that the statute violates U.S. international trade obligations.

The WTO rejected an appeal by the United States of the international trade body’s October 2014 ruling that the U.S. Country-Of-Origin Labeling (COOL) law discriminates against Canadian cattle and pigs and Mexican cattle. COOL requires meat to be labeled with the country where the animal from which it was derived was born, raised and harvested. Canada and Mexico send livestock to the United States to be fed out and processed. The WTO decision paves the way for those countries to place tariffs on U.S. imports.

“Unless Congress acts now, Canada and Mexico will put tariffs on dozens of U.S. products,” said NPPC President Ron Prestage, a veterinarian and pork producer from Camden, S.C. “That’s a death sentence for U.S. jobs and exports.

“I know tariffs would be financially devastating for the U.S. pork industry, and I’m sure they’ll have a negative impact on a host of other agricultural and non-agricultural sectors.”

Canada and Mexico are expected to quickly request authorization from the WTO to retaliate against U.S. products. The level of retaliation will be equivalent to the economic harm incurred by the countries from COOL; Canada and Mexico are expected to claim billions of dollars in damages. The WTO likely will authorize retaliation sometime this summer.

NPPC opposed COOL when it was being debated by Congress as part of the 2002 Farm Bill, warning that, among other things, the law was not compatible with WTO rules.

“The United States economy can’t afford to have its products restricted, through tariffs, to its No. 1 and 2 export markets,” Prestage said. “Congress needs to address this now. If it doesn’t, the lost jobs and the damage to our economy will be on lawmakers’ heads.”