Coalition sends letter on WTO COOL case

In a letter sent to leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees, the COOL Reform Coalition, a group of 61 food and agricultural organizations, including the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), expressed its concern over the pending outcome of a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling on the U.S. Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) in a case brought to the WTO court by Canada and Mexico. The decision by the WTO dispute settlement panel is expected to be delivered to the parties soon. The coalition fears that a final WTO determination that the COOL regulation violates U.S. international trade obligations likely will have a negative effect on the U.S. economy.

The letter explains that such a decision by the WTO would authorize Canada and Mexico to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods, including agriculture products, restricting exports and ultimately killing U.S. jobs. Canada, the second largest export market for U.S. agricultural products valued at $21.3 billion in 2012, already has issued a draft retaliation list that includes fresh pork and beef, bakery goods, rice, apples, wine, maple syrup and furniture. Mexico, which is the third largest export market for U.S. agriculture totaling $18.0 billion in 2013, is threatening to suspend preferential tariffs for a variety of produce items, meat, dairy products and other commodities.

Such retaliation would be similar to the tariffs applied on pork and many other products by Mexico a few years ago during the NAFTA trucking dispute. Mexico and Canada were, respectively, the second and fourth largest export markets by value for U.S. pork in 2013, with sales totaling $1.22 billion and $844 million. The coalition urged Congress to consider suspending the COOL regulation indefinitely should the WTO rule in favor of Canada and Mexico.

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