On October 20th, the World Trade Organization (“WTO”) ruled against the United States, and in favor of Canada and Mexico, in an ongoing dispute between the countries regarding country-of-origin labeling (“COOL”) laws for meat products. COOL rules in the United States, which went into effect in 2013, require meat labels to detail where the animals were born, raised, and slaughtered. In ruling against the United States in this dispute, the WTO found that these COOL rules discriminate against meat that is imported from other countries and result in favoring domestic meat products.
Prior to this ruling, a bipartisan group of 32 US Senators wrote to the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee asking it to “reject efforts to weaken or suspend” COOL rules before the WTO ruled on the trade dispute between the United States and Canada and Mexico. The senators had argued that the WTO decision would likely be unclear, and the Appropriations Committee should not allow rumors about the WTO’s decision to “pre-emptively weaken” COOL and United States law.
This past summer, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to COOL by the American Meat Institute. Shortly after the court’s ruling, more than 100 members of Congress asked the US Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) to rescind COOL if the WTO ruled in favor of Canada and Mexico. However, the senators argued in their most recent letter that the US “has the right to implement these popular and commonsense labeling laws.”
As a result of the ruling, Canada and Mexico have threatened tariffs on United States products imported to their countries if the United States does not revise its COOL rules in accordance with the WTO’s finding.