WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. – The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled on Dec. 7 against the U.S. country of origin labeling policy (COOL), and authorized Canada and Mexico to impose retaliatory tariffs of C$1.2 billion.
Canada had been seeking more than $3 billion in tariffs against the U.S. for failing to repeal COOL regulations while Mexico was asking for more than $653 million. According to the WTO ruling, Canada will be able to retaliate in the amount of C$1.054 billion, while Mexico will be able to retaliate in the amount of $227.7 million, once final WTO authorization is obtained.
The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) has urged Congress to repeal the noncompliant provisions of COOL and to honor international trade obligations.
“Congress must act to fix COOL now,” said Ohio farmer John Linder, chair of NCGA’s Trade and Biotechnology Action Team. “Canada and Mexico represent two of our largest trading partners. Noncompliance threatens our market share and has serious ramifications for the entire food supply chain and the rural economy. America’s farmers and ranchers cannot afford to wait any longer. We urge Congress to bring the U.S. into compliance.”
Canada reiterated its demands for the repeal of COOL, arguing the policy harms livestock producers in Canada, Mexico and the U.S.
“Since 2011, the World Trade Organization has repeatedly ruled that COOL discriminates against Canadian and Mexican cattle and hogs and violates the trade obligations of the United States,” Canadian Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, said in a joint statement. “The government of Canada has made every effort to convince the United States to comply with its international trade obligations.
“We are pleased that on June 10, 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives repealed COOL for beef and pork. The government of Canada has urged the U.S. Senate to do the same, but it has not yet done so.”
That may be about to change. Sen. Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said he would continue to search for legislative opportunities to repeal COOL.
“How much longer are we going to keep pretending retaliation isn’t happening?” Roberts said in a statement. “Does it happen when a cattle rancher, or even a furniture maker, is forced out of business? We must prevent retaliation, and we must do it now before these sanctions take effect.”
However, advocates of COOL urged lawmakers to leave the labeling law intact.
“Congress should take no action to repeal COOL or weaken it by converting it to a voluntary program,” Bill Bullard, chief executive officer of R-CALF USA, said in a statement. “Instead, Congress should direct our U.S. Trade Ambassador to negotiate a diplomatic solution to Canada’s and Mexico’s complaints by deploying the United States’ substantial negotiating skills. After all, this is precisely how the United States resolved country-to-country disputes before the U.S. began ceding its sovereignty to the unelected and un-appointed tribunal at the WTO.”
Bullard added that Congress should also direct U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack “to immediately begin promulgating new COOL rules to close some of the loopholes identified in the WTO dispute that are effectively limiting the effectiveness of COOL.”