U.S. gets more time to appeal WTO’s COOL ruling

The U.S. government now has until well into March to file any appeal of a World Trade Organization panel’s ruling against its controversial country-of-origin labelling (COOL) law.

Responding to complaints filed in 2008 by Canada and Mexico, a panel of the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body on Nov. 18 found COOL to be inconsistent with the U.S. government’s WTO obligations.

The release of the DSB panel’s report started a 60-day period in which the DSB is obliged to formally adopt a panel report that isn’t appealed. That period was to end Jan. 18.

The deadline for either the DSB to adopt or the U.S. government to appeal the panel’s ruling is now extended to March 23, the WTO said in a release Thursday.

The WTO said the extension came at the requests of the Canadian, Mexican and U.S. governments, "to take into account the current workload" of the WTO Appellate Body which would hear a U.S. appeal.

The WTO quoted the Canadian delegation as stating that "while there had been several such decisions in recent months, they were and must remain exceptional in nature."

The U.S. delegation also viewed such decisions to be "exceptional and taken in response to the unusual circumstances in which members and the Appellate Body found themselves," the WTO said.

Mexico, the WTO said, "would have preferred to have the ordinary timetable of disputes but was ready to co-operate."

COOL, launched in September 2008, requires U.S. retailers to notify their customers, by way of labeling, on the sources of foods such as beef, veal, pork, lamb, goat, fish, fruits, vegetables, peanuts, pecans and macadamia nuts.

Both Canada and Mexico have long contended that COOL violates international trade laws, restricts market access and is a technical trade barrier.

Canadian livestock groups add that the law has forced unnecessary costs on U.S. meat processors, who currently must either segregate Canadian animals and meat for labelling purposes, or limit their imports from Canada.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association this week released figures showing a significant drop in U.S. imports of Canadian fed and feeder cattle following COOL’s implementation, and a widening in the negative price basis for Canadian fed cattle compared to U.S. animals.

Related stories:

Data show COOL’s ‘significant’ impact on cattle exports, Jan. 5, 2012

WTO rips U.S. COOL law in win for Canada, Nov. 18, 2011

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