While the World Trade Organization (WTO) reviews a U.S. appeal of the group’s ruling that mandatory country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) requirements introduced by the U.S. are in violation of WTO agreements, pork producers fear retaliation by Canada and Mexico.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) opposed COOL when it was being considered by Congress because of the costs, which NPPC believe far outweigh any benefits, and potential trade implications. NPPC has urged the Obama administration and Congress to resolve the COOL issue to avoid damaging retaliation from Canada and Mexico against U.S. pork products.

“The chance of retaliation increases considerably, not only against pork but against a multitude of commodities if the U.S. COOL requirements remain in force,” says R.C. Hunt, NPPC president and Wilson, N.C., pork producer. “Retaliation could take the form of tariffs on pork and other commodities as well.”

Hunt points out that just a small tariff of 5 percent placed by Canada and Mexico on imports would make U.S. pork uncompetitive in those markets. “We hope the issue can be resolved very quickly before any type of retaliation can occur.”

Both markets are vital to U.S. pork exports. Mexico is the number one customer by volume of U.S. pork and in 2011 became the second market to import more than $1 billion in U.S. pork in a single year. Exports to Mexico in 2011 jumped 6 percent in value over 2010, reaching $1.04 billion. Canada was the fourth largest importer of U.S. pork in 2011 tallying $711 million in purchases.

A ruling by a WTO dispute settlement panel on the U.S. appeal is expected this month.