The World Trade Organization today issued its final ruling on Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), which was originally released in November of 2011. In the final ruling, the U.S. lost the bulk of its appeal against the original labeling rules, meaning the country may have to stop forcing retailers to display the country of origin on meat they sell.
The WTO Appellate Body said the COOL rules gave less favorable treatment to beef and pork imported from Mexico and Canada than to U.S. meat. Their decision gives the U.S. time to comply and does not immediately alter the labeling rules.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Vice President Bob McCan issued a statement after the ruling, saying, “The World Trade Organization has been extremely clear that mandatory Country of Origin Labeling is a clear WTO violation. This most recent decision is very similar to the initial ruling made three months ago. Instead of working diligently to bring the United States into WTO compliance, we wasted three months and taxpayer dollars on an appeal process. This did nothing more than jeopardize our strong trade relationship with Canada and Mexico, the two largest importers of U.S. beef. The Obama Administration prolonged an issue that could have been resolved quickly. NCBA worked with Canada and Mexico to prevent any retaliatory action that could have occurred from the unfortunate decision made by the U.S. government to appeal the initial ruling.”
U.S. consumer and mainline farm groups supported the labeling requirement that became mandatory in March 2008, saying consumers should have information to distinguish between U.S. and foreign products. Bigger meat processors however, opposed the provision because they said it would unnecessarily boost costs and disrupt trade.
The original case was brought before WTO by Mexico and Canada. Their panel rules then that the labeling provision violated WTO rules on technical barriers to trade.