In June 2012, the WTO ruled that US COOL requirements for certain meat commodities discriminated against Canadian and Mexican livestock imports and were inconsistent with the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. The US has until 23 May to comply with the ruling.
The AMI and partners, who wrote to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, also proposed that the Office of the United States Trade Representative negotiated a “sequencing agreement” with Canada and Mexico, meaning they would not have to put in a retaliation request within 30 days of the compliance period ending on 23 May. This would protect the countries’ legal rights until the completion of the compliance process.
The letter claimed that implementing the rule before these steps occur would harm the industry.
COOL, administered and enforced by the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service, is a labelling law that requires retailers to notify their customers as to the origin of certain foods including beef, veal, pork, lamb, goat, and chicken; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; peanuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts; and ginseng.
In March, the USDA proposed a modification to the labelling provisions for muscle-cut commodities covered under COOL that would require origin designations to include information about where each of the production steps (born, raised, slaughtered) took place, and would remove the allowance for the commingling of muscle cuts.
“USDA expects that these changes will improve the overall operation of the programme and also bring the current mandatory COOL requirements into compliance with US international trade obligations,” said Vilsack.
Last April, more than 35,600 people signed a petition calling for the integrity of COOL to be protected from WTO scrutiny. “People have the right to know where the food they feed their families comes from and the proposed COOL rules significantly improve the disclosure of information to consumers,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said at the time.