STAY COOL, By Joel D. Joseph, Chairman, Made in the USA Foundation — Open Letter to the Members of the United States Senate


By Joel D. Joseph, Chairman, Made in the USA Foundation

Open Letter to the Members of the United States Senate

Recently, The House of Representatives panicked and caved in to demands from Canada, Mexico and the World Trade Organization (WTO) gutting the Country of Origin Labeling Act (COOL). These are the same Congress members who want President Obama to “get tough” with Iran and Russia, yet cower when threatened by third-rate powers.

California has a population greater than Canada. Mexico is a drug cartel operating as a country. Every day we allow substandard Mexican delivery trucks to cross our borders and enter into the United States. With regards to our northern neighbors, we have not complained that Canada has refused to allow American beer imports into their country, yet, we let Canadian Molsons beer flow freely into the United States.

We need to get tough; we should take the gloves off and fight Canada and Mexico on unfair trade. We should also expose the World Trade Organization for what it is: an undemocratic, unfair clique of small countries that love to skewer the United States.

Canada and Mexico filed a complaint with the WTO charging that COOL was a barrier to free trade because it required grocery stores to label meat products with their country of origin. Ninety percent of American consumers want to have the country of origin labels on their meats. If mad cow disease is coming from Canada (which it has), consumers and processors should have the right to know where their beef is coming from.

At the same time, President Obama said that his new Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) would not force the United States to change its laws. The President said recently, “critics warn that parts of this deal (TPP) would undermine American regulation — food safety, worker safety, even financial regulations. They’re making this stuff up. This is just not true. No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.” Mr. President, your critics are not making this stuff up; our little trade agreement that created the WTO is doing just that.

The World Trade Organization sounds like a legitimate international organization, but it is not. The WTO operates in secret by handpicked delegates from around the world. Cases reviewed by the WTO are determined by “judges” selected for one case even if they have demonstrated conflicts of interest. WTO decisions make a mockery of U.S. and European laws that have been designed to protect the health of consumers and the environment. The WTO is unfair, unethical and undemocratic. It needs to be overhauled.

WTO court appointees should not be allowed to be partisans who have represented one county involved in the trade disputes. The panel chair in the COOL case was Ricardo Ramírez-Hernández, a Mexican citizen who has represented Mexico in trade matters. Ramírez-Hernández holds the chair of International Trade Law at the Mexican National University in Mexico City.

Ramírez-Hernández was deputy general counsel for Trade Negotiations of the Ministry of Economy in Mexico for more than a decade and represented Mexico in international trade litigation and investment arbitration proceedings. He acted as lead counsel to the Mexican government in several WTO disputes. He has also served on various NAFTA panels.

Quite simply, Mr. Ramirez-Hernandez should not have been allowed to serve on the appellate panel in a case involving Mexico as his presence on this panel represented a direct conflict of interest. The WTO should implement a system for parties to raise conflict of interest (and ethical matters) concerns calling for the disqualification of a judge as is the system used by U.S. courts.

The United States Senate should keep COOL in force. In fact, the Senate should pass a resolution challenging the validity of the WTO ruling for conflict of interest reasons.

In the event that the Senate passes a bill that guts COOL (like the House bill) and sends it to the President, the President should veto the bill. As the President said, “No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.” If he is true to his word, the President must veto the COOL amendments.