House lawmakers recently urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to rescind the U.S. Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law if the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules that it violates international trade obligations.
A letter signed by 112 House members sent to the U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman and Secretary of Agriculture said if the WTO rules against the United States, COOL, which requires meat to be labeled with the country or countries where the animal from which it came was born, raised and slaughtered, should be immediately rescinded to avoid retaliation from Canada and Mexico, which brought cases against the meat labeling law to the WTO.
Canada, the second largest export market for U.S. agricultural products valued at $21.3 billion in 2013, already issued a draft retaliation list that includes fresh pork and beef, bakery goods, rice, apples, wine, maple syrup and furniture. Mexico, which is the third largest export market for U.S. agriculture totaling $18.0 billion in 2013, is threatening to suspend preferential tariffs on a variety of produce items, meat, dairy products and other commodities. Such retaliation would be similar to the tariffs applied on pork and many other products by Mexico a few years ago during the NAFTA trucking dispute.
Mexico and Canada were the second and fourth largest export markets by value for U.S. pork in 2013, with exports totaling $1.22 billion and $844 million, respectively. The National Pork Producers Council, which opposed COOL when it was being debated in Congress, expects a final WTO compliance panel ruling on the labeling law to be released publicly in September.
In a related matter, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a three-judge panel’s dismissal of a case brought by the American Meat Institute, NPPC and several other livestock and poultry organizations against the COOL law last week. The meat groups had argued that the statute violates the First Amendment rights of regulated entities by compelling them to engage in “burdensome speech without constitutionally adequate justification.”