New direction for COOL?

by Erica Shaffer
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WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said his agency doesn't think the United States' country-of-origin-labeling rule (COOL) can be fixed.

"We do not think there is a regulatory fix that would allow us to be consistent with the law, which I've sworn to uphold, and to satisfy the WTO," Vilsack said during a US Department of Agriculture radio broadcast.

In October, the World Trade Organization ruled that under the country of origin law the US can label meat products, but it cannot label products in a way that creates less favorable treatment for meat products from Canada and Mexico.

Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz reiterated Canada's intentions to implement retaliatory tariffs if the US does not withdraw COOL. However, Ritz said he believes the US government will appeal the WTO's ruling. Vilsack said the US Trade Representative's office is studying an appeal, but he noted that more explicit direction could come from Congress or the governments of Mexico and Canada.

"Either our Canadian and Mexican friends have to tell us more clearly and more specifically, what, if any, variation of this will work for them," Vilsack said, "or Congress will have to give us different directions that allow us to comport with the WTO ruling to prevent any potential retaliation."
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