In congressional testimony today, the National Pork Producers Council said the United States must address its mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) law to avoid trade retaliation from Canada and Mexico.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) last fall ruled that the U.S. meat labeling law violates U.S. international trade obligations by discriminating against Canadian cattle and pigs and Mexican cattle. COOL requires meat to be labeled with the country where the animal from which it was derived was born, raised and slaughtered.

The United States appealed that decision, and the WTO is expected to rule on it by May 18. Should the international trade body reject the appeal, Canada and Mexico would be allowed to place retaliatory tariffs on U.S. imports, including pork and beef.

“We cannot afford to have [pork] exports disrupted nor can workers in allied sectors,” NPPC President-elect John Weber, a pork producer from Dysart, Iowa, told the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture. “The loss of the Mexican and Canadian markets, valued at $2.4 billion, could cost over 16,000 non-farm jobs.”

While pork and beef almost certainly will be on the Canadian and Mexican retaliation lists, non-agricultural products also likely will be included. Canada’s preliminary retaliation list included not only fresh pork and beef but bakery goods, rice, apples, wine, maple syrup and furniture.

“Because the damage to U.S. exports will be multiplied across our economy,” said Weber, “the economic effect will greatly exceed whatever retaliation is ultimately authorized by the WTO and will hurt many Americans who had nothing to do with implementing the COOL law. Not only will innocent bystanders be harmed, the economy as a whole will suffer.

“Congress must be prepared to repeal the offending parts of the statue to bring the U.S. into compliance with WTO rules,” said Weber. “Congress should not allow retaliation against pork producers and other sectors of the U.S. economy.”