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The so called “Cromnibus” filed last night addresses hundreds of policy issues. One of these is how the United States can defuse the threat to billions of dollars’ worth of U.S. exports in the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) dispute.
Over the past few years, a series of World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement panels has ruled that the U.S. COOL rule on muscle cuts of meat violates obligations the United States has accepted as a member of the WTO.
Canada and Mexico, which brought the dispute, are the two largest markets for U.S. exports. With this ruling in hand, the WTO is now on track to authorize our two North American neighbors to levy retaliatory tariffs against a broad array of U.S. products from our food production, agriculture, and manufacturing sectors.
The good news is that Congress has now weighed in with language in the “Cromnibus.”
Through this bill, Congress directs the Secretary of Agriculture, in consultation with the U.S. Trade Representative, to deliver to Congress by May 1
a report that contains the Secretary’s recommendations for any changes in Federal law that would be required for the establishment and implementation of a country of origin labeling program with respect to beef, pork, and poultry that does not conflict with, or is in any manner inconsistent with, the trade obligations of the United States.
Congress further instructs the Secretary to take into account the latest WTO dispute settlement panel rulings and the available results of all pending appeals.
This development makes plain the growing sense of concern in Congress that the threat of trade retaliation is real—and drawing near. In fact, retaliation may be less than one year away, and members of Congress have increasingly been hearing about this threat from American farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers who face the looming threat of retaliation.
The COOL Reform coalition sees growing support for our elected officials to act—and to do so sooner rather than later. We’ve argued that this trade dispute cannot be allowed to escalate to retaliation. It’s welcome news that Congress agrees.