The World Trade Organization gave the U.S., Canada and Mexico two more months to decide whether to appeal a November ruling that U.S. country-of-origin labeling laws unfairly hurt agricultural commerce.
At the request of trade officials in Canada, Mexico and the U.S., WTO's Dispute Settlement Body agreed Jan. 5 to put off the deadline for the adoption or appeal of COOL requirements to March 23, according to a WTO news release.
Canada and Mexico have argued the labeling imposes unfair costs on their exports and damages their competitiveness. They filed complaints in December 2008, disputing provisions of the U.S. Food, Conservation and Energy Act that impose mandatory retail country of origin labeling for beef and pork among other perishable foods, according to a Bloomberg report.
A long-standing opponent of origin labeling, the Food Marketing Institute (which represents the retail food industry) welcomed WTO's ruling.
“The World Trade Organization recognized what the supermarket industry has known all along: that COOL is a protectionist law designed to make it more costly and difficult for retailers to sell imported foods," Erik Lieberman, FMI regulatory counsel, said in a news release. "COOL has forced the industry to spend tens millions of dollars each year on unnecessary regulatory burdens all for little or no benefit to consumers."
COOL regulations will need to be repealed or rewritten in order for the U.S. to meet its obligations to global trading partners. Lieberman said in the release.