Industry disappointed with US appeal of COOL ruling

By Melodie Michel

- Last updated on GMT

Industry disappointed with US appeal of COOL ruling

Related tags: World trade organization, International trade

The American meat industry has expressed disappointment in the US Trade Representative’s decision to appeal a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that said Country Of Origin Labelling (COOL) was against trade regulations.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) said the move might compromise important trade relationships with Canada and Mexico, countries that challenged the COOL law in the first place, arguing that it was an unfair barrier to trade.

NCBA vice-president Bob McCan said: “Instead of working diligently to bring the USA into WTO compliance, our government has opted to engage in an appeal process, which jeopardises our strong trade relationship with Canada and Mexico, the two largest importers of US beef. An appeal is the wrong answer and a waste of valuable resources.

“This appeal will do nothing but escalate tension with our valuable trade partners and will prolong an issue that could be resolved quickly. We should be working towards a solution instead of creating a bigger problem. NCBA will engage with Canada and Mexico in order to prevent any retaliatory action that could occur from this unfortunate decision made by the US government.”

A National Pork Producers’ Council (NPPC) spokesperson told GlobalMeatNews​ that although the appeal was expected, the organisation had always been against COOL. “NPPC opposed it when it was being debated in Congress. The costs far outweigh the benefits,”​ he said.

The National Meat Association (NMA) also said the COOL was “quite costly”​, but that most meat companies had already complied with the rule, which was implemented in March 2009. “It is a shame that we cannot work out an arrangement that does not violate our international trade agreements, but it is not unexpected that WTO has appealed. The political pressures that passed the rule still exist,”​ a spokesperson told GlobalMeatNews​.

Canada and Mexico condemn the appeal

The US Trade Representative announced last week that it would appeal the WTO ruling, delivered in November 2011, against the law requiring country-of-origin labels on meat. Consumer groups welcomed the move, but the Canadian government, along with producers, expressed disappointment, with Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz saying: “The WTO panel decision recognised the integrated nature of the North American supply chain and marked a clear win for our industry. We are confident that the decision will be upheld so trade can move more freely, benefiting producers and processors on both sides of the border.”

The Mexican government said it would defend the WTO ruling, and use this appeal as an opportunity to keep defending the interests of the country’s farmers. “This step in the procedure will also allow Mexico to seek review of issues where we consider that the panel made improper legal analysis of the provisions of the WTO. So in five days, Mexico could file its own notice of appeal with the WTO,”​ the economy secretary said.

The COOL law stipulates that only animals born, reared and slaughtered in the US can be labelled as ‘American’. Before March 2009, animals that had been reared and slaughtered in the US could bear an ‘American’ label, even if they originated from other countries.

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