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US to Appeal WTO Country of Origin Labelling

26 March 2012, at 7:48am

US & CANADA - The office of the US Trade Representative has opted to appeal the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling on Country of Origin Labeling (COOL).

Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) is a USDA marketing programme mandated by the 2002 Farm Bill which requires retailers to notify their customers of the country of origin of beef, veal, goat meat, lamb, pork, poultry, fish and other perishable agricultural commodities.

In November, WTO ruled that the US COOL requirements were in violation of WTO agreements.

Canada claimed that the COOL requirements meant Canadian products were being treated unfavourably, with some US packers not accepting Canadian livestock, or purchasing less.

US Trade Representative General Counsel Tim Reif says this appeal is to help make sure consumers are provided with accurate and relevant information regarding the origin of beef and pork products.

In response to the US decision to appeal the WTO ruling, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Vice President Bob McCann said: "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 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 toward 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."

On the contrary, the National Farmers' Union (NFU) supports the US decision to appeal.

President Roger Johnson said: 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.”

NFU delegates recently passed a special order of business regarding COOL at the organisation’s convention. The order encouraged resolving the dispute while preserving the country-of-origin labelling law. It stated that the USTR must appeal the WTO decision because it is a frontal assault on US sovereignty, the transparency and integrity of US domestic markets, adversely impacts US food consumers by denying them the information they need to make informed buying decisions, denies US farmers and ranchers the opportunity to differentiate their high quality food products in their own US marketplace, and will compound the problems of a negative balance of trade deficit.

More information about the appeal will be released soon, although it is likely a decision on the appeal will take a few months.