A move to repeal U.S. country of origin labeling (COOL) laws regarding meat products has resurfaced as part of the year-end funding bill. A vote on the bill is expected within days.
Congress has been facing pressure to repeal COOL after the World Trade Organization (WTO) in May deemed the laws unfair and inconsistent with free trade obligations. Canada and Mexico challenged the U.S. COOL laws, saying they discriminate against beef and pork from the two countries. The two countries vowed to seek retaliation in the form of tariffs on U.S. goods, and the WTO on December 7 authorized Mexico and Canada to issue more than $1 billion in tariffs.
While a bill to repeal COOL was approved in the House of Representatives, the Senate failed to pass such legislation. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, pushed for a similar bill to that one approved by the House, but it was never passed. Fellow ag committee member Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, proposed another piece of legislation that would make COOL voluntary. That legislation also stalled.
Roberts, in a press release, expressed hope that the bill which includes the repeal of COOL would be approved.
“For several years now, the writing has been on the wall that U.S. COOL requirements for meat were doomed at the WTO. Since its inception, I have warned that retaliation was coming, and I’m pleased American agriculture and businesses will escape these tariffs,” said Roberts. “With passage, American farmers, ranchers and small businesses will finally get the certainty they deserve from unnecessary trade retaliation.”
K. Michael Conaway, House Agriculture Committee chairman, said in a statement he was pleased to see the language about repealing COOL laws was included in the funding bill.
“By including this language, we will be back in compliance with our WTO obligations, avoid more than $1 billion in retaliation from Canada and Mexico, and prevent damages to our relationships with two of our top trade partners,” said Conaway.