As expected, the World Trade Organization today issued a final ruling against the United States over Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for livestock and meat products.
The final ruling maintained previous conclusions that “the amended COOL measure increases the record-keeping burden for imported livestock entailed by the original COOL measure.” The Appellate Body rejected U.S. arguments that the conclusions were based on “incorrect hypothetical” scenarios rather than on actual or common trade situations.
The Appellate Body agreed with the panel that the recordkeeping and verification requirements of the amended COOL measure impose a disproportionate burden on producers and processors of livestock that cannot be explained by the need to provide origin information to consumers, and that the exemptions under the amended COOL measure support a conclusion that the detrimental impact of that measure on imported livestock does not stem exclusively from legitimate regulatory distinctions. In this regard, the panel had noted that between 57.7% and 66.7% of beef and between 83.5% and 84.1% of pork muscle cuts consumed in the US convey no consumer information on origin despite imposing an upstream recordkeeping burden on producers and processors that has a detrimental impact on competitive opportunities for imported livestock.
House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) has already prepared to announce legislation this week to repeal COOL, and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) says he will “consider any solution – including repeal regarding meat – that will allow the United States to be WTO-compliant and avoid retaliation from Canada and Mexico.”