This week, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the administration won’t likely appeal the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling against U.S. Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) until sometime in January. That possible delay is because the WTO is currently backlogged with other pending appeal cases.
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson whose group wants the decision appealed says delaying it until early next year really doesn’t hurt. In fact, Johnson believes that delaying the appeal actually helps the U.S. build their case for achieving compliance with WTO rules.
While the administration continues to weigh its options, lobby groups on both sides of the issue remain intractably divided over how best to resolve the long-running trade dispute.
The American Meat Institute (AMI), which has unsuccessfully sued the government to stop the labelling measures, has called the USDA’s mandatory COOL rule “onerous and burdensome on livestock producers and meatpackers and processors.” A statement issued by the institute warns that “being out of compliance, the U.S. is subject to retaliation from Canada and Mexico that could cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars.”
Multinational food processor and AMI member Cargill has also called for repeal of COOL to “ensure marketplace efficiencies” and avoid a potential trade war should Canada and Mexico follow through on their threats to launch retaliatory tariffs on a broad range of U.S. exports. “We are hopeful the three governments can work this out,” said Cargill spokesman Mike Martin. “It is costing all three countries, and there are no winners.”
COOL supporters are also working to get their voices heard. In an editorial circulated to the press earlier this week, Minnesota Farmers Union president Doug Peterson called for an appeal. “The U.S. needs to appeal the WTO’s ruling in defense of rights of American citizens,” Peterson wrote. “And MFU looks forward to working with the USDA and other key stakeholders on a conclusion that is positive both for farmers and for consumers.”