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WTO Rules Against U.S. Country of Origin Labeling

23 November 2011

Food and Agriculture and International Trade Alert

A World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body panel has issued a ruling declaring several aspects of the United States' Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements as they pertain to cattle and hog muscle cuts in violation of World Trade Organization rules. The U.S. can appeal the decision to the WTO's Appellate Body. In addition, under WTO rules, the U.S. is entitled to a reasonable period of time to comply with an adverse Panel or Appellate Body decision. The COOL requirements, derived from the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946, as amended by the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills, require the country of origin be declared on labeling at retail for certain meats, fish, agricultural commodities, and other food commodities. Canada and Mexico challenged the law, its implementing regulations, and a 2009 letter to industry from Secretary Vilsack recommending additional voluntary labeling before the WTO. Canada and Mexico alleged the laws discriminated against foreign trade in violation of multiple WTO agreements, in particular the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).



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