Trade Compliance

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WTO Rules Against U.S. in COOL Dispute

Posted August 27, 2014

Citing leaked information from a reliable source, the Wall Street Journal confirms that the World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled against the United States and in favour of Canada and Mexico in the long-running and often bitterly fought trade dispute over country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for beef, pork and other meats imported into the U.S.

Parties to the appeal were confidentially advised last month on an interim basis of the WTO dispute panel’s decision and suggestions had been made at the time that the final report would be released at the end of July, but speculation now is that it won’t be made publicly available until September or October.

The WTO decision comes as no surprise to many and indeed was already hinted at by Canada’s Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz when he told a business meeting in Calgary last month that he was “buoyed” by what the WTO had said about Canada and Mexico having “actually proven our case.” President Howard Hill of the National Pork Producers Council told reporters that his organization expected the WTO ruling along with eventual retaliation by Canada and Mexico against the United States.

“There is an opportunity for the U.S. to appeal, and so the retaliation is not going to occur this year,” Hill said. “Eventually we’re going to have to get this fixed or we will have a really serious situation with retaliation. We are going to have to rally the troops to get Congress to fix this because that is the only way it is going to get fixed now. Now they are out of session and there is probably not a lot that is going to happen in the lame duck session.”

The Canadian government last year declared its intention to retaliate if the WTO were to overturn the disputed COOL regulations by publishing a list of goods from the U.S. that could be subjected to higher import tariffs. Mexico’s Economy Ministry has likewise said it could target products such as fruits and vegetables, juices, meat, dairy products, machinery, furniture and home appliances, among others. It could be another year or more before any such measures are actually imposed, however, given that the U.S. administration will most likely appeal the panel’s decision.