The World Trade Organization Appellate Body today issued its final ruling on Country of Origin Labeling, finding that U.S. COOL is not compliant with U.S. - WTO agreement on technical barriers to trade.
The decision means that packers many no longer be required to differentiate U.S. meat from Canadian or Mexican meat. However, labeling may be allowed as long as it is amended to be WTO compliant, and not a "technical barrier to trade."
National Cattlemen's Beef Association Vice President Bob McCan said the WTO has long been clear on its decision, and that time has been wasted.
"Instead of working diligently to bring the United States into WTO compliance, we wasted three months and taxpayer dollars on an appeal process. This did nothing more than jeopardize our strong trade relationship with Canada and Mexico, the two largest importers of U.S. beef," McCan said.
National Pork Producers Council President R.C. Hunt said the NPPC is also against the requirement.
"We believed when it was being debated in Congress that MCOOL would be an unnecessary burden to trade. We have maintained that belief consistently from the outset, and we will be working to achieve U.S. compliance with today's WTO decision," Hunt said.
NCBA has also pledged to work with Canada and Mexico to prevent any retaliatory action that could have occurred from the decision made by the U.S. government to appeal the initial ruling.
"Cattlemen deserve a government that fights for and protects our opportunities. We need a government that not only demands WTO compliance of our trade partners but one that ensures the United States is abiding by these same guidelines," McCan said.
On the other side of the argument is the National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson, who said the group is pleased about the ruling.
"Consumers have a right to know from where their meat comes—and they overwhelmingly want to know just that. WTO's decision today confirmed that right," Johnson said.
NFU said the appellate body also reversed a decision that determined COOL was trade restrictive, which NFU sees as a benefit to the U.S.
"[The reversal] is a win for the United States, our ranchers and our consumers," Johnson said.