USCA (November 21, 2011) - The U.S. Cattlemen's Association (USCA) says the decision by the World Trade Organization (WTO) panel in disputes brought by Canada and Mexico over the U.S. country of origin labeling (COOL) law affirms the right of the United States to require country of origin labeling for meat products, but the dispute panel disagreed with specifics of how the U.S. designed the implementation of its requirements saying COOL accords less favorable treatment to imported Canadian and Mexican cattle and imported Canadian hogs than to like domestic products. The three-member panel released its final report on Friday, November 18. The next step in the process is for the reports to be adopted by the WTO Dispute Settlement Body or appealed to the WTO Appellate Body.
In 2008, Canada and Mexico initiated dispute settlement proceedings against the U.S. related to COOL requirements for meat products. Canada and Mexico alleged that the U.S. COOL requirements were designed to achieve a protectionist objective, and that the COOL law, its implementing regulations and a Department of Agriculture letter related to the COOL requirements discriminate against their livestock exports to the U.S., breaching WTO obligations.
"Obviously, there are sections of the panel's findings that we strongly disagree with," said Danni Beer, Keldron, SD, USCA Director and COOL Committee chair. "We are pleased, however, that the panel affirmed the right of the U.S. to label meat for consumers. We believe the consumer has the right to know where their products come from, and that consumers continue to have the freedom to make informed purchasing decisions. We are currently reviewing the dispute panel's extensive report. It appears that the panel felt that the segregation required during processing puts foreign animals at a competitive disadvantage, while the second ruling finds that the 'born, raised and slaughtered' standard is not strict enough because it permits a mixed origin label in some circumstances, which subsequently does not provide consumers with accurate information. The panel found that the mixed origin label provision fails to meet a legitimate consumer information objective. The panel notes that this failure to achieve a consumer objective cannot justify the adverse effects on imported animals."
USCA President Jon Wooster, San Lucas, CA says USCA remains committed to the COOL law. "We support the U.S. Trade Representative's (USTR) efforts in defending U.S. rights in this dispute and we look forward to assisting with the appeal process. USCA will be working with our allies in the Administration and Congress to ensure that COOL continues."