The American Meat Institute has told the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative that mandatory country-of-origin labeling violates the United States’ international trade obligations for many reasons and that the U.S. must honor these obligations.
The comments were provided in response to a December 4, 2009, Federal Register Notice. Canada and Mexico in late 2009 filed a case against the United States with the World Trade Organization, a move that came as no surprise given those countries’ outspoken opposition to the labeling law when it was under consideration by Congress.
In comments, AMI Senior Vice President and General Counsel Mark Dopp said that equitable enforcement of international trade rules is a high priority for everyone and that all too often, market access for U.S. meat products has been threatened or cut off with little or no legitimate justification.
“American challenges to these actions have been based upon the rights provided under international trade agreements,” says Dopp. “Critical to the United States’ ability to enforce successfully WTO and North American Free Trade Agreement obligations is consistency in U.S. behavior and actions. In that regard, the United States’ credibility is undermined when U.S. legislation violates America’s commitments pursuant to those international agreements.”
AMI feels COOL is inconsistent with trade agreements because of its discriminatory effect on imported meat and imported live animals. The U.S. must ensure that the products of other countries “imported into the territory of [the United States]…be accorded treatment no less favorable than that accorded to like products of [U.S.] origin in respect of all laws…affecting their internal sale.”
According to Dopp, COOL affects the internal sale of meat derived from foreign animals in the United States by creating notable disadvantages in selling imported foreign meat, as well as selling “foreign” animals to U.S. meat packing facilities.