United States loses WTO appeal in meat label dispute

NPPC urges Congress to repeal meat labeling law now

For the fourth time, the World Trade Organization Appellate Body ruled against the United States’ Country of Origin Labeling requirements for meat, reported the House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX).  This ruling upholds the compliance panel’s report in finding against the United States.

“Once again, the WTO has found COOL to be non-compliant – a decision we fully expected. As retaliation by Canada and Mexico becomes a reality, it is more important now than ever to act quickly to avoid a protracted trade war with our two largest trade partners. I have asked my colleagues on the Agriculture Committee to weigh in on resolving this issue once and for all during a business meeting this Wednesday in a targeted effort to remove ongoing uncertainty and to provide stability,” Conaway says.

Repeal U.S.  meat labeling law

In response to the WTO ruling the National Pork Producers Council along with other members of the COOL Reform Coalition urge Congress to repeal the U.S. meat labeling law, now.

Trade retaliation is imminent unless Congress repeals a U.S. meat labeling law, said the NPPC.

The WTO rejected an appeal by the United States of the international trade body’s October 2014 ruling that the U.S. Country-Of-Origin Labeling law discriminates against Canadian cattle and pigs and Mexican cattle. COOL requires meat to be labeled with the country where the animal from which it was derived was born, raised and harvested. Canada and Mexico send livestock to the United States to be fed out and processed. The WTO decision paves the way for those countries to place tariffs on U.S. imports.

“Unless Congress acts now, Canada and Mexico will put tariffs on dozens of U.S. products,” says NPPC President Ron Prestage, a veterinarian and pork producer from Camden, S.C. “That’s a death sentence for U.S. jobs and exports."

With the WTO issuing this final ruling, Canada and Mexico, America's two largest export markets, will promptly move to institute billions of dollars' worth of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. food, agricultural and manufactured goods.    

"WTO-authorized retaliation by two of the largest U.S. trading partners could result in very substantial tariffs affecting multiple sectors of the U.S. economy, threatening the livelihoods of American families who depend on U.S. manufacturing," says Linda Dempsey, vice president of International Economic Affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers, and Co-Chair of the COOL Reform Coalition. 

Canadian reaction

Canada has already issued a preliminary retaliation list targeting a broad spectrum of commodities and manufactured products that would affect every state in the country. Mexico has not yet announced a preliminary retaliation list but has implemented retaliatory tariffs in the past which may be indicative of future tariff actions.

Immediately after the WTO ruling announcement, Canada announced it will move forward with retaliatory measures on United States.

“In light of the final ruling, and due to the fact that the United States has continued to discriminate against Canadian livestock products, Canada will be seeking authority from the WTO to use retaliatory measures on U.S. agricultural and non-agricultural products,” states the Honorable Ed Fast, minister of International Trade and the Honorable Gerry Ritz, minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

In 2013, Canada released a proposed list of targeted United States imports. Live animals and meat from the United States were included in the listed for retaliatory tariffs.

“I know tariffs would be financially devastating for the U.S. pork industry, and I’m sure they’ll have a negative impact on a host of other agricultural and non-agricultural sectors,” Prestage says.

Furthermore, "More than 95% of the world's consumers live outside of our borders. We flaunt our country's obligations under the rules-based trading system at our peril," said U.S. Chamber Senior Vice President for International Policy John Murphy and co-chair of the COOL Reform Coalition. "American farmers, workers and companies will not be able to sell their goods and services to those consumers if we fail to live up to these rules ourselves. Congress must take action now to repeal the COOL rule for meat before retaliation hits as soon as late summer." 

NPPC opposed COOL when it was being debated by Congress as part of the 2002 farm bill, warning that, among other things, the law was not compatible with WTO rules.

“The United States economy can’t afford to have its products restricted, through tariffs, to its No. 1 and 2 export markets,” Prestage says. “Congress needs to address this now. If it doesn’t, the lost jobs and the damage to our economy will be on lawmakers’ heads.”

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