USTR moves ahead with COOL appeal

Parties are consulting with the Appellate Body on the schedule for this appeal, including the filing date for the U.S. appellant submission.

The U.S. Trade Representative has officially decided to appeal this fall’s World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling which found the United States’ mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law not in compliance with WTO trade guidelines.

A USTR spokesperson said the U.S. appealed the compliance panel reports in the COOL dispute. “Among other findings, the U.S. appeal requests reversal of the panel findings that the amended COOL measure accords imported Canadian and Mexican livestock less favorable treatment than that received by U.S. livestock.”

USTR said the parties are consulting with the Appellate Body on the schedule for this appeal, including the filing date for the U.S. appellant submission.

Long-time COOL supporter National Farmers Union (NFU) president Roger Johnson applauded the decision. Johnson also urged Congress to leave the popular labeling law alone and allow the WTO process to run its course.

Johnson claimed, “The October WTO ruling found once again that the COOL law is WTO-compliant and acknowledged that the May 2013 USDA regulations were a significant improvement in terms of providing more accurate information to consumers. Nonetheless, the WTO incorrectly found the rules were noncompliant and an appeal is the obvious course of action.”

A statement from the American Meat Institute explained the appeal decision was “entirely expected” but does nothing to alter the underlying situation.

AMI cited that as Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently stated, COOL requires a statutory change.  “We look forward to working with Congress to fix COOL once and for all, so that the United States comes into compliance with our trade obligations and we restore our strong relationship with our most important trading partners,” the AMI statement said.

Bob McCan, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn.,  said the group continues to believe there is no regulatory fix to bring the COOL rule into compliance with international trade obligations. “The WTO was very clear in its ruling, COOL discriminates against our trading partners, and we do not see any merit for appeal.”

McCan continued that an appeal only continues along the current path and brings the U.S. closer to retaliatory tariffs from Canada and Mexico, “a path that will damage our economy and our relationship with our largest trading partners.”

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