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As part of a $1.1 trillion spending package, the U.S. Congress has approved legislation that will repeal country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for certain muscle cuts of meat, a move that food industry organizations believe will head off damaging trade retaliation by Canada and Mexico.
"Our elected leaders recognize the need for the United States to live up to its international trade obligations," noted Barry Carpenter, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based North American Meat Institute. "They also know that failing to repeal the provisions that triggered a protracted World Trade Organization (WTO) battle between the U.S. and its two most important trading partners, Canada and Mexico, has invited more than $1 billion in painful retaliatory tariffs. This congressional action is an important step in avoiding the financial harm so many industries will incur once Canada and Mexico initiate the tariffs sanctioned by the WTO’s ruling earlier this month."
Added Carpenter, "The marketplace, with consumers as the drivers, should determine what labeling is meaningful and should appear on meat products – not protectionists who fear free and unfettered trade.”
The American Frozen Food Institute, Food Marketing Institute, International Dairy Foods Association and National Grocers Association also issued statements in support of the legislation.
The WTO recently approved annual retaliatory tariff amounts of $1.01 billion – $781 million from Canada and $227.76 million from Mexico – which could have been imposed on U.S. exports if COOL weren’t repealed. The approved tariff amounts came in the wake of a May 2015 WTO ruling that COOL requirements violated U.S. international trade obligations by treating Canadian and Mexican livestock less favorably than domestic livestock. This in turn set off a storm of protests from various industry trade groups.