The office of the U.S. Trade Representative on Friday March 23 appealed the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling on Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). The labeling law was passed as a part of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 and amended in 2008. COOL requires retailers to notify their customers of the source of certain foods. Canada and Mexico filed a complaint against the United States’ law, which led to the recent ruling.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association was very displeased with the decision of the office of the Trade Representative.
NCBA Vice President Bob McCann expressed their feeling on the decision, “We are very disappointed in this decision. Instead of working diligently to bring the United States into WTO compliance, our government has opted to engage in an appeal process, which jeopardizes our strong trade relationship with Canada and Mexico, the two largest importers of U.S. beef. An appeal is the wrong answer and a waste of valuable resources. Cattlemen deserve a government that fights for and protects our opportunities. We need a government that not only demands WTO compliance of our trade partners but one that ensures the United States is abiding by these same guidelines.”
But, the North Dakota Farmers Union and National Farmers Union support the decision. According to National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson, “NFU has been an ardent proponent for COOL from its inception. We will refuse to accept the WTO’s recent decision without a vigorous fight and are pleased the USTR has taken the same stance.”
Senator Jon Tester also released a statement in favor of the appeal after announcement was made. He said, “Free trade needs to be fair trade. International bodies have no business denying American consumers the right to know where their meat comes from. Challenging this ruling is a responsible decision on behalf of American producers and consumers.”
In December, Tester urged U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to appeal, saying that the labeling system “provides important and useful information to consumers while not placing an undue burden on the industry.”
Sources: NCBA, NDFU, office of Senator Tester