The World Trade Organization (WTO) this week sided with Canada and Mexico in a long-running dispute over U.S. country of origin labeling (COOL) rules. The WTO ruling sets the retaliation amount Canada and Mexico can place on American products at $1.1 billion. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says his agency has said all along the amount those two countries requested was higher than their actual losses.
“I think the decision by the arbitrators reflects the fact that we were closer to the mark than the Canadians and Mexicans. Having said that, we have been urging Congress for a number of months to resolve this issue,” Vilsack said.
COOL requires meat to be labeled with the country where the animal was born, raised, and slaughtered. The WTO says COOL violates U.S. trade obligations and discriminates against Canadian and Mexican animals. The National Pork Producers Council and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has called on Congress to repeal the labeling provision for beef, pork, and poultry. Vilsack says voluntary COOL might be another option.
“Clearly, there has to be a repeal of that portion of the law that has been problematic, that gives Canada and Mexico the ability to retaliate,” Vilsack said.
The U.S. House voted in June to repeal COOL but the Senate has yet to take up the measure. Iowa leads the nation in pork production and ranks in the top 10 for beef production.