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OMAHA (DTN) -- The Obama administration formally appealed the adverse trade ruling on country-of-origin labeling through the World Trade Organization's dispute settlement body in Geneva, Switzerland.
The COOL appeal was the main agenda item listed for the WTO's dispute body meeting Friday. The U.S. Trade Representative's office did not release a statement on the appeal.
U.S. groups that support country-of-origin labeling for meat products quickly praised the U.S. Trade Representative's office for appealing the WTO decision.
"The decision today by the USTR to appeal the WTO ruling on COOL is the right thing to do for American family farmers, ranchers and consumers," said Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union.
South Dakota rancher Danni Beer, president of the U.S. Cattlemen's Association, said her members were pleased with the USTR's decision to appeal. "This has been a long process, but the panel's rulings appear to be incorrect in a number of respects," Beer said. "We look forward to having the Appellate Body review those matters properly appealed to it. COOL is important to consumers and to cattle producers in the United States trying to have the origin of their product communicated to the end-user. We appreciate the support from the administration and from many in Congress to defend this critical legislation and agency regulations."
The WTO ruling publicly released in October reiterated that the U.S. can have a country-of-origin labeling law, but the USDA rule still treats imported Canadian and Mexican livestock less favorably than domestic livestock and actually increases the "detrimental impact on the competitive opportunities" for both Canadian and Mexican livestock.
The modified rule from USDA last year angered Canadians and Mexicans by requiring more information for muscle cuts on each production step: born, raised and slaughtered. For instance, a steer born in Canada, but raised and slaughtered in the U.S. is labeled "Born in Canada, Raised and Slaughtered in the United States." For all domestic animals, the label states "Born, Raised and Slaughtered in the U.S."
Canadian officials were disappointed in the U.S. decision to appeal the ruling. In a joint statement issued by Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and Minister of International Trade Ed Fast, the two ministers said Canada expects the U.S. to live up to its trade obligations and comply with the WTO.
"With this delay, the United States is yet again preventing both of our countries from enjoying the benefits of freer and more open trade and is hurting farmers, ranchers and workers in the United States and Canada," the Canadian ministers stated. They also warned that the Canadian government is ready to retaliate against U.S. products if necessary.
"We are confident that the WTO Appellate Body in the compliance process will uphold the principal finding of the report: that the amended U.S. COOL measure discriminates against Canadian livestock. That finding marks another clear victory for Canada and recognizes the integrated nature of the North American supply chain."
U.S. livestock groups have remained divided on COOL. Groups such as the National Pork Producers Council, National Cattlemen's Beef Association and American Meat Institute oppose mandated COOL, arguing it discriminates against producers who import livestock and adds costly requirements to packers that have to segregate cattle and hogs from Canada or Mexico.
NFU, however, has carried the flag for COOL and maintains consumers want to know where their food is from. "The decision by the USTR to appeal the WTO's erroneous finding demonstrates full support for American family farmers, ranchers and consumers," Johnson said.
WTO Dispute Body agenda: http://www.wto.org/…
Chris Clayton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org