Wednesday, May 20, 2015

WTO rejects U.S. appeal on country-of-origin labeling; House committee OKs bill to repeal COOL

The World Trade Organization ruled against a U.S. appeal "to keep its country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rule for imported cuts of beef and pork," Lydia Wheeler reports for The Hill. WTO said the rule "violates U.S. trade obligations and imposes a disproportionate burden in record-keeping and verification requirements on meat producers and processors."

In response, the House Agriculture Committee today approved a bill to repeal the COOL law.
Spencer Chase reports for Agri-Pulse, "The bill was reported to the full House by a vote of 38-6, with the backing of all committee Republicans and with a 13-6 margin of support from Democrats. One of the votes against the bill was from the committee's lead Democrat, Minnesota's Collin Peterson, who opposes full repeal and thinks the bill is being rushed."

Peter told Chase, "I don't think it's the best way to avoid retaliation, and, quite frankly, I don't think the Senate will be able to pass a repeal. I think we need to look at the big picture and work together to come up with a solution that will get us where we want to get and resolve this issue." Other Democrats voting against the measure were Tim Walz and Rick Nolan of Minnesota, Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, and Ann Kuster of New Hampshire.

Canada and Mexico argued that the rule puts its countries' meat at an unfair disadvantage in the U.S. market, Wheeler writes. COOL regulations, which were issued in 2013, required "that meat packaging give more information about where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered. Under the rule, the label on a cut of beef could theoretically read 'Born in Mexico, raised in Canada, slaughtered in the U.S.A.'"

Industry groups cheered the ruling. Critics of COOL said they fear it would cause retaliation by Canada and Mexico "imposing billions of dollars worth of tariffs on U.S. food, agriculture and manufacturing," Wheeler writes.

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