The COOL Reform Coalition has sent a letter to Congress asking for immediate action, in the wake of the World Trade Organization’s latest ruling against the United States over the country-of-origin labeling rules for meat products. The letter states:
“To the members of the United States Congress:
“We urge that Congress act swiftly to build a contingency plan for the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law regarding beef and pork muscle cuts to protect U.S. jobs and exports. Recently, 109 national trade associations and businesses wrote to you to emphasize this same message. On November 14, 2014, our concerns were underscored by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's statement that the COOL law does not provide the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the discretion necessary to change COOL requirements to ensure compliance with U.S. trade obligations. Secretary Vilsack, a leading COOL supporter, made clear that USDA alone cannot fix a COOL problem with trade compliance. Congressional action is necessary.
“The COOL Reform Coalition, co-chaired by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, does not oppose country of origin labeling requirements but believes that modifications to COOL are required to ensure its consistency with U.S. international trade obligations. On October 20, 2014, a World Trade Organization (WTO) compliance panel released a report declaring that the U.S. COOL revised rule was non-compliant. The governments of Mexico and Canada, which brought the case to the WTO, would be authorized to retaliate against the U.S. by imposing tariffs on U.S. manufactured goods and agricultural products in the event of a final WTO adjudication on the matter, which is expected in the second half of 2015.
“We strongly urge Congress to amend the current statute to include a contingency plan that would only take effect if, upon final adjudication, the WTO determines COOL to be non-compliant with U.S. trade obligations. A contingency plan would preserve existing COOL requirements if the WTO Appellate Body finds that the COOL statute and its implementing regulations comply with trade obligations. Importantly, the contingency plan we propose would not undercut the defense of COOL or cut short the WTO process for its consideration. It simply puts in place a path for the U.S. to ensure its compliance with the international trade obligations that it has undertaken in order to avoid roughly $2 billion in retaliatory tariffs that Canada and Mexico would be authorized to take on a wide range of U.S. agricultural and manufactured exports.
“Once non-compliance is established through final adjudication, WTO-authorized retaliation can occur relatively quickly. The WTO announced this week that the United States must appeal the ruling by November 28, making the need for Congressional action much more urgent. The impacts of potential retaliation are already being felt as manufacturers, farmers, and other businesses must plan operations and account for potential tariffs. Thus, the economic damage of WTO-authorized retaliation actually starts earlier and lasts longer because products likely to be targeted for retaliation start losing sales even before tariffs are authorized. Moreover, once export sales are lost, it takes years to regain those customers and market share. Congress must act as expeditiously as possible to prevent the threat of retaliation against U.S. exports.
“For more information about the likely effects of WTO-authorized retaliation for COOL non-compliance, a list of COOL Reform Coalition supporters and related information, please visit our website at www.COOLReform.com.
“We respectfully urge Congress to immediately enact a contingency plan to avert massive Canadian and Mexican retaliation in the event of an adverse final WTO adjudication in this matter and avoid substantial harm to the U.S. economy.
The COOL Reform Coalition”
Source: COOL Reform Coalition