R-CALF USA Applauds USTR Request to Arbitrate COOL; Urges Congress to Not Interfere with Arbitration Process

Billings, Mont. – On Tuesday, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) formally triggered an arbitration process with Canada regarding country of origin labeling (COOL) at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The purpose of the arbitration process is to determine the level of damages, if any, that Canada incurred as a result of the United States’ mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) law. Canada must now prove that it actually incurred monetary damages before the WTO would consider granting it the right to impose retaliatory tariffs against the United States as compensation for any such damages.

In response to the USTR’s request, the WTO on Wednesday referred the United States’ request regarding Canada to arbitration. Although the USTR will likely also challenge Mexico’s claims for damages, Mexico inserted the wrong dollar value for its damage claims and the United States will have more time to respond to Mexico’s corrected request to implement retaliatory tariffs.

Even though the COOL complaint is still pending, and while USTR is still pursuing available WTO options with which to defend COOL, the U.S. House of Representatives last week attempted to preempt the USTR from continuing its defense of COOL by passing a measure to repeal COOL for beef, pork and chicken. Recently, a U.S. appellate court definitively ruled that COOL was in full compliance with the U.S. Constitution.

Efforts are now underway in the U.S. Senate to either support the House’s repeal effort or to seriously weaken COOL.

R-CALF USA said it applauds the USTR for defending the United States’ sovereign right to notify consumers as to the true origins of the meat they purchase for themselves and their families.

"In addition, during the five years that COOL has been in effect, the share of each consumer beef dollar received by U.S. farmers and ranchers has been restored to a 20-year high. In other words, COOL is reducing the control that multinational meatpackers have over our live cattle supply chain and so the USTR’s action is directly benefiting U.S. cattle producers," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.

The organization also said that Congress is jeopardizing United States’ sovereignty by undermining USTR’s ongoing efforts to defend COOL through Congress’ actions of attempting to outright repeal COOL or to weaken it while the WTO dispute is ongoing.

"We are awe-struck by the tremendous power that multinational meatpackers and foreign countries like Canada and Mexico have over our Congress," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard who added, "It is unprecedented for Congress to side with foreign countries in an international dispute that involves giving U.S. citizens important information about their food."

Bullard said Congress’ effort to repeal or weaken COOL while the WTO case is pending exemplifies a dysfunctional Congress.

"Congress directed the executive branch to subject our U.S.-passed laws to, and to defend those laws within, the global governance structure established by the WTO. But with COOL, Congress is undercutting the executive branch’s ability to defend our laws by attempting to surrender them even before the global procedures they agreed to have been completed," Bullard said.

"We urge the U.S. Senate to take no action to repeal or weaken COOL while this important arbitration process is taking place," Bullard concluded.

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R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is the largest producer-only cattle trade association in the United States. It is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.