The Senate Agriculture Committee last week held a hearing on the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law and efforts to avoid trade retaliation from Canada and Mexico, which object to the meat labeling provisions of the statute.
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 asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) to authorize about $3.2 billion a year in retaliatory tariffs against U.S. goods exported to their countries, following the international trade body’s recent ruling that COOL discriminates against their livestock.
The United States asked the WTO for arbitration on each country’s retaliation amount — $2.5 billion from Canada and $713 million from Mexico. The WTO is expected to authorize retaliation as soon as late August. The Agriculture Committee heard from six agricultural industry representatives, who said the United States must avoid retaliation from Canada and Mexico. Their testimony was echoed by Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who said, “The U.S. economy cannot tolerate such economic injury. Repeal of mandatory COOL is the surest way to protect the U.S. economy.”
In written testimony submitted to the committee, the National Pork Producers Council said, “Because the damage [from retaliation] to U.S. exports will be multiplied across the economy, the economic effect will greatly exceed whatever retaliation is ultimately authorized by the WTO and will hurt many Americans who had nothing to do with implementing the COOL law.”
The organization is urging the Senate to follow the lead of the House by repealing the COOL labeling provisions for beef, chicken and pork. The lower chamber June 10 approved repeal legislation on a 300-131 vote. This week, Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., released a discussion draft of proposed legislation to make COOL voluntary, but the Canadian and Mexican governments have rejected that proposal.