January 27, 2014

WTO sets date of US country of origin labelling (COOL) hearing


The World Trade Organization (WTO) announced that the public hearing of the US' country of origin labelling (COOL) rule, the cause of the United States' meat trade dispute with Canada and Mexico, is set for February 18-19, 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland.

In August, the Canadian government asked the WTO to establish a compliance panel to review US COOL after the US revised the regulation. Under revised COOL regulations, meat packers must label muscle cuts of meat with information about where each of the production steps occurred. But Canadian officials argued that revisions to the rule further hindered Canada's ability to compete with US cattle and hog producers.

The US lost an appeal of a WTO challenge brought by Canada and Mexico in 2012. The WTO Appellate Body found that COOL regulations violated trade agreements by giving less favourable treatment to Canadian cattle and hogs compared to US domestic livestock. However, US trade officials are not backing down despite consistent WTO rulings against COOL.
Meanwhile, Canada and Mexico are threatening retaliatory tariffs if the WTO rules in favour of the United States. Mexico announced it would suspend preferential tariffs for a variety of produce items, meat, dairy products and other commodities. Moreover, Canada released in June 2013 a list of 38 commodities – mostly agricultural items – that could be targeted for retaliatory trade duties.

COOL also faces opposition from industry groups in the US. In July, eight organisations representing US and Canadian meat and livestock interests sued the USDA to block implementation of the COOL rule on First Amendment grounds, among other arguments. But in a September 11 ruling, US District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson denied the request for an injunction, saying that the focus of the case was on compelled commercial speech, which is generally held to "less exacting constitutional standards".

In September, groups representing the American, Canadian and Mexican meat industry interests filed an initial brief as part of an appeal of Judge Brown's ruling.

Video >

Follow Us