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WTO Sets COOL Arbitration Hearing

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

(North American Meat Institute)

The Dispute Settlement Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) will hold arbitration meetings September 15-16, 2015, in Geneva, Switzerland, to consider Canada and Mexico's proposed retaliatory tariffs against the U.S. in the country-of-origin labeling (COOL) dispute. Canada and Mexico are seeking more than $3 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods, following a May decision by the WTO Appellate Body, which ruled that the mandatory COOL law and regulations violate U.S. international trade obligations and illegally discriminate against imported livestock from Canada and Mexico.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) filed a legal brief disputing the level of retaliation sought by Canada and Mexico, calling it a dramatic overestimation of damages. The U.S. requested that the WTO Arbitrator reject the amounts proposed by Canada and Mexico, and instead set the totals at no more than $43.22 million and $47.55 million, respectively.

In June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal COOL for beef, pork and chicken by a vote of 300-131. Meanwhile, competing proposals have emerged in the Senate. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and John Hoeven (R-ND) introduced the Voluntary Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) and Trade Enhancement Act of 2015 , which would establish a voluntary "Product of the U.S." label for beef, pork, chicken and ground meats that are from animals born, raised and harvested in the U.S., while Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) proposed an amendment to the surface transportation bill that would repeal COOL for meat.

Both Canada and Mexico oppose the voluntary labeling bill and have stated their intent to impose retaliatory measures if COOL is not fully repealed.

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