Members of the Country of Origin Labeling Reform Coalition on Thursday sent a letter to members of the U.S. Congress appealing for action on the World Trade Organization's recent ruling on COOL, which found the policy non-compliant with WTO agreements.
The groups say elements of the rule, which requires meat to carry labels indicating where the originating animal was born, raised and slaughtered, should be rescinded to regain compliance with WTO.
"Such action by Congress would not undermine COOL to the extent COOL is consistent with international trade obligations nor would it weaken the U.S. defense of COOL in WTO litigation," the groups wrote in their letter dated Oct. 30.
The groups said negative impacts of keeping the rule intact are likely. Canada, one country opposed to COOL, has already threatened retaliatory tariffs that would affect several manufacturing and business sectors in the U.S. beyond agriculture.
Though the second country, Mexico, has not released a preliminary retaliation list, the COOL Reform Coalition says it has implemented retaliatory tariffs in the past, which may be indicative of future tariff opportunities.
These retaliation measures could begin in early 2015 if the WTO's compliance panel findings released Oct. 20 are affirmed, though the U.S. does have the opportunity to appeal the WTO's decision on COOL.
"It is expected that U.S. industries would suffer billions in lost sales if retaliation is allowed," the group wrote.
The group notes that there's likely to be little time after the WTO's final adjudication for Congressional action.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said this week that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has not determined if the U.S. plans to appeal the WTO decision. If USTR does appeal the decision, Vilsack said an appeal likely will not be filed before January, 2015.
Review the Coalition's position and a list of Coalition members on the COOL Reform website.