May 22, 2015

House Ag Committee Votes To Repeal COOL


With that, The House Ag Committee passed a bill this morning that would repeal the now offending Country of Origin labeling law.  The move is meant to preempt any retaliation measures by Canada or Mexico now that the U.S. is found to be out of compliance with international trade laws.  Not everyone is on board.  House Ag Ranking Member Colin Peterson of Minnesota:

Peterson 1

Peterson also saw other challenges ahead :

Peterson 2

Peterson was in the minority.  Livestock Subcommittee Ranking Member Jim Costa, Democrat out of California cautioned against the repercussions if Country of Origin Labeling were to remain the law of the land:

Costa 1

Schedules are such that the bill is unlikely to make it to the full House floor until June.   No word on when the Senate might consider a similar measure.


World Trade Organization Announces U.S. Has Lost COOL Appeal

Feeding CowsThe World Trade Organization announced its final ruling on the Country of Origin labeling dispute between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico, confirming earlier rumors that the U.S. has lost its last appeal.  The WTO made the announcement this morning following months of rumors; the decision will open the way for retaliatory trade measures by Canada and Mexico.  The news comes as a blessing to many in the U.S. meat packing industry who have stated the rules were too restrictive. The ruling follows years of complaints by both Canada and Mexico that the U.S.’s mandatory labeling laws were discriminatory.  Just last year the WTO found in favor of the plantiff parties which led to USDA redrafting the rules.  USDA has said they felt the rules were in compliance with international laws, but has stated several times in various committee hearings on Capitol Hill that if this appeal failed there was little they could do to bring the law into compliance. House Ag Committee Chair Michael Conaway issued this statement following the announcement:

“Once again, the WTO has found COOL to be non-compliant – a decision we fully expected. As retaliation by Canada and Mexico becomes a reality, it is more important now than ever to act quickly to avoid a protracted trade war with our two largest trade partners. I have asked my colleagues on the Agriculture Committee to weigh in on resolving this issue once and for all during a business meeting this Wednesday in a targeted effort to remove ongoing uncertainty and to provide stability.”

Conaway has previously stated his intentions to initiate a repeal process in the House should this be the outcome of the appeals process.   A news conference with Chairman Conaway, Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC), Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), John Murphy of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Ken Monahan of the National Association of Manufacturers, John Weber of the National Pork Producers Council, and Philip Ellis of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has been scheduled for tomorrow.


U.S. Senate Agrees On Path To Fast Track Trade Vote

Members of the U.S. Senate have agreed on a path to avoid further filibusters and vote on a fast track trade bill.  The agreement comes just one day after Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid blocked a vote on the proposed bill and Republicans could not gather the 60 votes necessary to move on.

The deal means Senate Democrats will drop their demands to combine Trade Promotion Authority with Trade Adjustment Assistance and trade enforcement provisions along with a measure that would ensure duty free trade with some developing countries.  The vote on Trade Adjustment assistance will take place prior to the final vote on TPA.  Republicans previously had argued that Democrats were trying to force a “poison pill” of sorts by trying to put a currency manipulation provision in the trade enforcement bill thereby endangering passage of the entire works.

In the end, trade promotion authority is now expected to pass the Senate, although TPA as a whole is expected to face some obstacles once it gets to the House.

Votes on each individual bill are set to occur in the Senate starting at noon on Thursday, no firm vote schedule is set up in the House at this time.

The Trade Promotion Authority situation has attracted much interest in political circles as it has put the President in the unusual situation of being at odds with some of his largest supporters and also forced Republicans into defending a President they’ve struggled to agree with.