U.S. official urges deal on COOL clash

(Dave Bedard photo)

Washington | Reuters — A negotiated solution is the best way to resolve a trade dispute with Canada and Mexico over meat labeling in the short term, a U.S. official said Monday.

A World Trade Organization compliance panel said earlier the U.S. has not done enough to change its country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rules after losing a challenge brought by Mexico and Canada. [Related story]

“A negotiated solution, not further litigation at the WTO, is the most realistic path to getting this issue resolved in the near-term,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Allowing this case to wait for resolution in Geneva will only prolong the market uncertainty we’ve seen on all sides of this issue.”

U.S. meat industry groups echoed that sentiment Monday; the American Meat Institute and North American Meat Association noted Washington could try to appeal the ruling, but the groups urged the U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Department of Agriculture “to instead work together with the industry and Congress to amend the COOL statute so that it complies with our international obligations and brings stability to the market.”

The compliance panel’s ruling “comes as no surprise,” the two groups said, and “by being out of compliance, the U.S. is subject to retaliation from Canada and Mexico that could cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars.”

Texas producer Bob McCan, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said Monday the compliance panel ruling “brings us all one step closer to facing retaliatory tariffs from two of our largest trading partners.”

COOL, he said, “is a failed program that will soon cost not only the beef industry, but the entire U.S. economy, with no corresponding benefit to consumers or producers.”

“The U.S. must avoid retaliation from Canada and Mexico,” Howard Hill, an Iowa producer and president of the National Pork Producers Council, said in a separate release. “Retaliatory tariffs on pork would be financially devastating to U.S. pork producers.”

The pork producer group said it supports a labeling approach that “provides important information to consumers, complies with U.S. international trade obligations and does not undermine U.S. meat supply chains and unnecessarily raise costs.”

“The U.S. economy can’t afford to have its products restricted, through tariffs, to its No. 1 and 2 export markets,” Hill said. “Congress and the White House need to address this now.”

Reporting by Krista Hughes in Washington, D.C. Includes files from AGCanada.com Network staff.

 

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