WTO critical of US country-of-origin provisions

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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WASHINGTON – On May 20, the World Trade Organization ruled that Country of Origin requirements in the US violate provisions of the WTO’s agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. WTO ruled US COOL requirements do not fulfill the stated US objective of helping inform consumers of the origin of meat and, consequently, violate the TBT agreement. There have been no winners with COOL, Donald said. He added the US cattle ranchers lose right along with cattlemen from Mexico and Canada.

The preliminary ruling on Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) reinforces what the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) has stated publicly. COOL was a bad idea from the beginning and the preliminary WTO ruling on the original complaint filed by Canada and Mexico is proof, said NCBA President Bill Donald.

“This ruling is unfortunate for the US government but the consequences of a poor decision have been revealed,” he added. “We fully support WTO’s preliminary ruling, It is also very important to note that this ruling is very much preliminary and all of the details are not yet known.”

The US Congress passed the Food, Conservation and Energy Act, which imposed mandatory COOL for beef and other meats, in 2008. Six months after the act was passed, Canada and Mexico initiated the WTO case.

“Proponents of COOL have always believed that restricting imports of Mexican and/or Canadian feeder cattle will decrease the supply of feeder cattle in the US and increase the price of US origin feeder cattle,” Donald said. “In reality, reducing the number of cattle in the marketplace also reduces the infrastructure of the U.S. beef industry. The ultimate result of such an action is that the value of all feeder cattle in Mexico, the US and Canada are reduced. We all lose. The truth is, in this global economy, a rising tide floats all boats. Shrinking the size and scope of our industry only serves to cripple us for the future.”

WTO is expected to make the ruling public sometime in September. The US will then have two months to decide whether to appeal the ruling.
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