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Copyright © 2014
Angus Journal

COOL Dispute Gains New Life

by John Maday, Managing Editor, Drovers CattleNetwork

(March 23, 2012) — Last Friday, the U.S. Trade representative (USTR) announced it will appeal the World Trade Organization’s ruling claiming our mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) rules violate trade agreements. Early in the day, AgriTalk Radio’s Mike Adams discussed the decision with Tim Reif, general counsel to the U.S. Trade Representative office.

Reif stressed the administration’s commitment to protecting consumers by providing country-of-origin information on beef and pork products. The appeal, he says, dispute’s the WTO’s contention that COOL provides “less favorable treatment to Mexican and Canadian Livestock producers,” and that “the COOL statute is more trade restrictive than necessary to provide information to consumers.”

Reif explained that the WTO decision did not dispute the United States’ right to require country-of-origin labels, but objects to the ways the COOL statute was implemented.

Reif says he expects a decision from WTO on the appeal within two to three months.

NCBA quickly issued a statement expressing concern the appeal will do more harm than good.

"We are very disappointed in this decision. Instead of working diligently to bring the United States into WTO compliance, our government has opted to engage in an appeal process, which jeopardizes our strong trade relationship with Canada and Mexico, the two largest importers of U.S. beef,” says NCBA vice president Bob McCann. “An appeal is the wrong answer and a waste of valuable resources. This appeal will do nothing but escalate tension with our valuable trade partners and will prolong an issue that could be resolved quickly. We should be working toward a solution instead of creating a bigger problem.

"NCBA will engage with Canada and Mexico in order to prevent any retaliatory action that could occur from this unfortunate decision made by the U.S. government.

"Cattlemen deserve a government that fights for and protects our opportunities. We need a government that not only demands WTO compliance of our trade partners but one that ensures the United States is abiding by these same guidelines."

R-CALF USA, which has long supported mandatory COOL, reacted differently.

“We’re extremely thankful that our U.S. Trade Representative has chosen to defend our constitutionally-passed COOL law,” said R-CALF USA Region VI Director and COOL Committee Chair Mike Schultz. “But, we’re in a no-win situation regarding this frontal attack on our COOL law because our nation should not tolerate for an instant a foreign entity’s efforts to undermine our constitutionally-passed domestic laws in the first place.” Schultz explained that it is a sad state of affairs when our U.S. government kowtows to a One-World Government tribunal by playing within that foreign tribunal’s pseudo judicial process.

“Several powerful corporate industry groups are actually supporting the WTO’s efforts to undermine our U.S. COOL law, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the American Meat Institute (AMI),” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard adding, “These groups don’t want U.S. consumers to know if they are buying beef produced exclusively in the United States or if their beef was produced in Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, or any one of the more than a dozen countries where U.S. corporations source their beef.”

Bullard said those corporate industry groups that support the WTO’s anti-COOL ruling do not want U.S. consumers to support U.S. farmers and ranchers by choosing to buy U.S. beef for their families.

Bullard added that other groups have tried to sugar-coat the WTO’s anti-COOL ruling by claiming the ruling reinforced the United States’ right to implement a COOL program and only attacked the manner by which the United States’ COOL law was implemented.

“This is nothing more than semantics and the WTO is far too coy to have attacked our domestic law in any other way than it did. The fact is that the WTO accomplished its objective by ruling on the one hand that COOL was too rigid and treated foreign product less favorably than domestic product, but on the other hand, it ruled that COOL was too flexible and therefore nullified the COOL law’s objective.”

“The WTO’s anti-COOL ruling is nonsensical and baseless and we are confident the United States will prevail in this unenviable appeal,” concluded Schultz.

Editor's Note: This article written by John Maday, Managing Editor, is from Drovers CattleNetwork,