Groups file lawsuit to keep COOL law intact
The Made in the USA Foundation led a coalition of groups filing suit against the World Trade Organization, the U.S. Trade Representative and the Secretary of Agriculture to keep the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling Act (COOL) in force. The WTO ruled this summer that COOL, which required meat from Mexico, Canada and other nations to be labeled as such, discriminated against imported beef.
The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court in Denver, Colo. The case seeks a court order declaring that the World Trade Organization does not have the authority to override U.S. law. The Country of Origin Labeling Act requires all meat, fish, chicken and produce to be labeled at the grocery store with an accurate country of origin.
Canada and Mexico challenged the U.S. law at the World Trade Organization, arguing that the law unfairly discriminates against imports from these two nations. The WTO does not have permanent judges. The WTO appointed an appellate panel of three judges that included a Mexican lawyer who has represented Mexico in trade cases.
Joel D. Joseph, general counsel of the Made in the USA Foundation, said, "the WTO does not have the right to interfere with domestic laws of the United States. When the U.S. joined the WTO, it agreed to do so only if the WTO could not overrule U.S. law. More than 90% of U.S. consumers favor the Country of Origin Labeling Act. This law does not discriminate against any country, it merely requires labeling. Consumers have a right to decide whether to buy U.S. or imported meat, and accurate labeling is a consumer right." Joseph added, "the WTO's appellate panel was unfairly biased against the United States and should not have allowed a Mexican lawyer, with an obvious conflict of interest, to sit on the panel."
This is the third major decision of a WTO court that attempts to overturn U.S. law. The prior two cases involved "dolphin safe" labels on tuna and a U.S. ban on flavored cigarettes. Congress allows tuna to be labeled "dolphin safe" if it meets specific requirements. Mexico complained that this discriminates against Mexican tuna because Mexican tuna is not fished in a manner that protects dolphins.
Indonesia filed a complaint with the WTO charging that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, that prohibits flavored cigarettes from being sold in the United States discriminates against Indonesia cigarettes. Indonesia produces clove-flavored cigarettes and wants to sell them in the U.S. The WTO ruled that the U.S. ban on flavored cigarettes discriminated against Indonesia.
The Made in the USA Foundation is a non-profit organization formed in 1989 to promote American-made products. The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) represents 5,400 ranchers and cattlemen in 45 states. Made in the USA Foundation and R-CALF were the primary supporters of the Country of Origin Labeling Act. Mile High Organics is a food distributor in Denver that delivers food to homes throughout the state. Mile High Organics seeks to distribute local, Made in the USA food and supports country of origin labeling.
Source: Made in the USA Foundation