Time running out for COOL fix

by Erica Shaffer
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OTTAWA, Canada – Canada is prepared to implement retaliatory tariffs as early as summer if the United States doesn't change its country-of-origin labeling laws, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz told local news outlets.

The Obama administration appealed the World Trade Organization's (WTO) latest ruling on COOL, which found requiring companies to list the country-of-origin of beef and other meats was discriminatory. The US had 60 days to appeal the decision, and the appeal was filed Nov. 28. A decision by the WTO could come by mid-2015.

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said USDA doesn't think COOL can be fixed. He said the agency would need "different directions" from Congress that would satisfy the WTO while remaining consistent with US policy.

The federal budget for fiscal 2015 contained language instructing USDA to submit a report with recommendations for any changes in the COOL law to bring it into compliance with WTO obligations. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association said COOL impedes economic growth.

“The WTO ruling on the COOL rule was very clear that this provision discriminates against our largest trading partners,” Bob McCan, NCBA president, said in a statement. “Moreover, this failed legislation has cost US cattle producers in the form of lost revenue and added costs for labeling, all for a program that has not shown benefits to consumers or greater consumption of beef.

“It is time to fix COOL before our economy is damaged by retaliatory tariffs or our trade relationships are permanently damaged,” McCan added. “Failure to abide by our trade obligations sends a signal to our current and future trade partners that they, too, can pick and choose what provisions to abide by.”
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