WTO Panel Rules Against U.S. COOL Labeling
November 22, 2011
On November 18, 2011, a World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement panel issued a ruling regarding U.S. country of origin labeling (COOL) requirements on meat products. While the panel affirmed the United States’ right to require country of origin labeling on meat products, it determined that the U.S. COOL measure, which is a technical regulation under the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement, is inconsistent with the United States’ WTO obligations. The panel found fault with the way the United States designed the COOL measure, and determined that the COOL measure accords less favorable treatment to imported Canadian and Mexican cattle and hogs than to domestic like products. In addition, the panel found that the COOL measure does not fulfill its legitimate objective of providing consumers with information on origin.
U.S. country of origin labeling requirements took effect on an interim basis in September 2008 for beef, lamb, pork, chicken, goat, perishable agricultural commodities and certain nuts. Canada and Mexico subsequently initiated dispute settlement proceedings against the United States related to country of origin requirements for meat products. According to Andrea Mead, Press Secretary for the USTR, the Office of the USTR is considering all options, including appealing the panel’s decision.
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