BUSINESS 8/07/2015 @ 10:06AM 23 views
John Brinkley Contributor
Did you ever think you’d see congressional Republicans repeal a federal law in subservience to a foreign organization?
After the World Trade Organization ruled that a U.S. country-of-origin food labeling regulation was unfair to countries that export chickens, pigs and cows to the United States, House Republicans put on an amazing display of humility: they bowed down before the WTO and agreed to repeal the law that authorized the regulation.
How ironic can you get?
The country-of-origin labeling, or COOL, requirement holds that chicken, beef and pork producers have to label their products to show where they came from. Canada and Mexico complained to the WTO that the law unfairly discriminated against their producers and a WTO Dispute Settlement Body agreed. The U.S. government appealed the ruling to a WTO Appellate Body, which agreed in large part with the earlier decision.
The two bodies ruled that the COOL regulation violated a WTO requirement that member countries treat imported products the same as they would domestic products.
The dispute now goes to arbitration.
Republicans generally don’t like foreigners telling America what to do.
At times, they’ve been downright paranoid about it. When the UN proposed adding Yosemite National Park to its list of World Heritage sites in the early 1980s, western Republicans erupted in anger. They said the UN wanted to take over the park. Yosemite was added to the list in 1984 and no UN troops or secret agents have been spotted there in the ensuing 37 years.
The International Criminal Court has 123 member countries, but the United States isn’t one of them, thanks to George W. Bush. He said if the U.S. joined the court, it might prosecute Americans. We can’t have that, now, can we? Bush’s refusal to join the ICC put the United States in the good company of China, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Qatar, Yemen and Sudan.
More recently, a UN non-binding, voluntary sustainable development action plan called Agenda 21 has caused Republican to recoil in horror.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who is running for president, warned that Agenda 21 would spell the end of golf courses, grazing pastures and paved roads.
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said Agenda 21 would empower UN agents to descend on the United States and start “moving people off of their agricultural land and consolidating them into city centers and then telling them that you don’t have property rights anymore. These are all things that the UN is behind and it’s bad for the United States, bad for families here in the state of Iowa.”
So, now comes the WTO with an order that reaches into American supermarkets and congressional Republicans respond: no problem!
The House passed a COOL-repeal bill in June. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, has introduced a similar one in the Senate. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has offered a compromise bill allowing for voluntary labeling. That seems innocuous enough, but the Canadians and the Mexicans say it doesn’t solve the problem and they threaten to go back to the WTO if it passes.
Let them. They might not win. Voluntary labeling is just that – voluntary. It’s not imposed by law or regulation, so it’s hard to imagine how the WTO could say it unfairly restrains trade.
So, why not let the process play out to the end before resorting to anti-consumer legislation?
A recent University of Arkansas study found that most consumers like country of origin labels on their food packaging. They also like to know if the food they buy is genetically-modified, but the GOP-controlled House has passed a bill banning states from requiring GMO foods to be labeled as such.
U.S. cattle and pork producers say they would be hurt badly if Canada and Mexico were allowed to enact retaliatory tariffs. The two governments say they would add up to $3.6 billion, but the U.S. government says that figure “severely overestimates” the harm COOL has visited upon those countries.
The WTO has scheduled an arbitration hearing on the dispute for Sept. 15 and 16 in Geneva. So, why don’t we wait to see what happens before giving in to the WTO?
Man up, Republicans! Don’t let some dang foreigners push you around!