US Blinks on COOL for Meat to Avoid Canada, Mexico Retaliation

The US’ country-of-origin Labelling (COOL) scheme for pork and beef was repealed by Congress late Last month, averting hefty countermeasures that Canada and Mexico were preparing to impose following a prolonged WTO dispute.

“The omnibus bill repealed the country of origin labelling (COOL) requirements for muscle cuts of beef and pork, and ground beef and pork. Effective immediately, [the US Department of Agriculture] is not enforcing the COOL requirements for muscle cut and ground beef and pork outlined in the January 2009 and May 2013 final rules,” explained US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack following the repeal.

The repeal was included in language for a multi-trillion dollar spending bill passed by the US legislature on 18 December and signed into Law by President Barack Obama. While it removes COOL for pork and beef, it does allow the labelling to continue for lamb and chicken.

The measures at issue in the case were labelling requirements applicable to imported Livestock and meat, which required retailers to inform consumers of the origin of those products, including beef and pork. In turn, meat suppliers were required to provide retailers with the necessary information, with origin being determined under a complex formula regarding where the animals were born, raised, and slaughtered.

An arbitrator later deemed on 7 December that Canada has effectively lost benefits worth C$1.054 billion (US$740 million at today’s exchange rate) annually as a result of COOL, with Mexico having suffered losses amounting to US$227.758 million annually. In both cases, in line with global trade rules, the arbitrator had granted those two countries with permission to ask for WTO-authorised retaliation up to those respective amounts.

The WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) granted authorisation to both Canada and Mexico on 21 December for retaliation at the levels found by the arbitrator, following those countries’ respective requests.