R-CALF – WTO Tries to Change U.S. Law with 4th Adverse COOL Ruling

WTO Tries to Change U.S. Law with 4th Adverse COOL Ruling

Billings, MT – For the fourth time in three years, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled that the United States’ country of origin labeling (COOL) law violates international trade laws. With today’s ruling, the WTO is attempting to coerce the U.S. into capitulating to the WTO’s effort to weaken or repeal COOL. With such coercive tools at its disposal as the authority to grant Canada and Mexico the right to impose retaliatory tariffs, the WTO’s power to force the United States to change its constitutionally-passed law is now clearly evident.

Today’s WTO ruling led by Presiding Member Ricardo Ramírez-Hernández, a Mexican national, favors both Canada and Mexico that are opposed to U.S. COOL. Although R-CALF USA and other groups have complained that allowing a Mexican national to preside as a global appellate jurist over a complaint filed by Mexico is a blatant conflict of interest, the WTO has nevertheless proceeded as if such conflicts are acceptable.

Specifically, today’s ruling claims that COOL accords less favorable treatment to imported livestock than to domestic livestock. In support of this ruling, it found that the latest implementing rules for COOL has increased the detrimental impact on competitive opportunities for imported livestock and that such detrimental impact does not stem exclusively from any legitimate regulatory distinction.

"It is amazing that the WTO is accusing COOL of impeding live cattle imports when such imports from Canada and Mexico under the COOL rule hit a 7-year high in 2014 and when imported Canadian and Mexican cattle are commanding historically high prices," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.

"It is equally amazing that after our U.S. court system has ruled that our U.S. COOL law is constitutional, the leadership of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee appears willing to surrender our COOL law to this international tribunal without even completing the WTO dispute process," Bullard added.

Bullard said that because Congress decided to cede U.S. sovereignty by subjecting our domestic laws and regulations to an international tribunal, it should at least follow the WTO process all the way to the end. He said there is still an arbitration process where Canada and Mexico actually have to prove they have suffered financial harm before the WTO will authorize those countries to impose retaliatory tariffs.

"Surrendering our COOL law at this early juncture would be an unprecedented concession by Congress that it reveres preliminary actions by the WTO more than it reveres our nation’s Constitution," Bullard said.

Bullard said today’s COOL ruling should dispel the myths that neither the Fast Track bill being considered by Congress nor the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement (TPP) soon to be considered by Congress will undermine U.S. laws.

"This COOL ruling demonstrates that the consequence of ceding constitutional authority to the WTO through fast track and free trade agreements is that our domestic laws are undermined," Bullard commented.

He said another unintended consequence of capitulating to the WTO’s effort to weaken COOL is that when or if the ongoing efforts to begin importing live cattle from Australia, Brazil and Argentina are successful, then the resulting beef from those much cheaper sources of livestock will sit indistinguishable from U.S. beef in our nation’s grocery stores.

"This could cause the demise of the independent, commercial U.S. cattle producer, just as it has already devastated the independent, U.S. commercial sheep producer," Bullard said.

"We are urging Congress to take no action as a result of this ruling and are encouraging the U.S. Trade Representative to continue defending the sovereign interests of the United States in the next step of the dispute process in which the U.S. can dispute Canada’s and Mexico’s claims of financial harm," 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.