Demands by Canadian competitors and the U.S. meatpacker industry to immediately rescind Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) before the World Trade Organization (WTO) has completed the dispute process are deceptive and premature because the United States has strong grounds to appeal the case, and should pursue a vigorous appeal, said National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson.
“Recent comments by an attorney for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association that the law will inevitably be struck down should be seen for what they are: a paid advocate for a foreign competitor attempting to scare the U.S. Congress into hasty and unwarranted action,” said Johnson. “At each stage in the dispute, the WTO has increasingly found that COOL is legitimate and that the current rules provide valuable information to consumers,” he added.
The WTO dispute process is lengthy and unpredictable with many disputes lasting more than a decade. The recent WTO ruling overestimated the cost of the rule, underestimated the benefits of COOL labels, and inappropriately attributed the declining U.S. cattle imports during the economic recession to commonsense COOL labels. All of these are present legitimate grounds for a strong appeal.
“The U.S. Congress should reject Canada’s absurd demand for unconditional surrender at the WTO,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “The U.S. must pursue a vigorous appeal to defend the COOL labels that Congress enacted and not buckle to the Canadian cattle and U.S. meatpacker demands.”
Johnson noted that the repeated threats that the WTO will promptly and automatically award tremendous tariff penalties are scare tactics of the industry litigants, not the likely outcome of the dispute.
“American consumers want to know where their meat and vegetables come from, and family farmers and ranchers are happy to provide that information,” said Johnson. “We urge the administration needs to take all necessary steps to make it permanent.”
Johnson also pointed out that opponents of COOL have lost four times in the U.S. Courts, and have been unable to derail the popular law at the WTO. “This line of argument is nothing short of desperation, given they have lost every other avenue possible,” said Johnson.