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WTO Rules Against U.S. in COOL Dispute

Monday, May 18, 2015

(North American Meat Institute)

A World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body panel today rejected a United States appeal and upheld an earlier ruling that mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rules discriminate against imported livestock. The Appellate Body's report allows Canada and Mexico to move forward and seek to impose trade sanctions against the United States. Canadian Minister of Trade Ed Fast and Minister of Agriculture Gerri Ritz issued a statement calling on the U.S. to repeal COOL's provisions against beef and pork, and a joint Canada-Mexico statement is expected soon. Members of Congress also have signaled they plan to repeal the elements of the COOL statute affecting meat. A bi-partisan press conference is expected tomorrow in the U.S. House of Representatives at 11 a.m.

Meanwhile, the Meat Institute responded strongly in support of the WTO decision. "The WTO has spoken not once, not twice, not three times, but four times in panel and appellate body decisions. All four rulings found against the U.S.," said NAMI President and CEO Barry Carpenter. "Now, after years of grappling with this costly and onerous rule - a rule that USDA's own economic analysis says is a burden on livestock producers, meat packers and processors with no consumer benefit - it is clear that repealing the statute is the best step forward," Carpenter continued.

The Meat Institute stated that repeal is particularly warranted given new data released earlier this month by the International Food Information Council Foundation, which shows country-of-origin information maintained its ninth place spot on the list of 11 pieces of labeling information that consumers use when choosing a food product. Perhaps more importantly, the percentage of consumers saying they use COOL labels has declined markedly from 29 percent in 2013, to 26 percent in 2014 to 15 percent in 2015. By contrast, half of consumers look for expiration dates and the nutrition facts panel.

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