Canada and Mexico won an appeal at The World Trade Organization Monday, when the organization ruled that country of origin labeling rules issued by the U.S. worked against the two countries’ meat industry.
In the U.S., labels on red meat cuts must specify where the animal was born and slaughtered. Canada and Mexico claim that such labels negatively impact their livestock. The WTO issued a similar decision in 2014.
The U.S. federal government tried to comply with the organization’s earlier ruling, so it requested from farmers to keep strict records on the livestock’s birthplace, location where the livestock was raised and where the animals were slaughtered. That info needed to appear on every red meat label. But according to the latest ruling, the labels should not specify country of origin anymore.
Obama administration says that Congress should now amend the law to avoid extra tariffs on experts from the two countries. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture urged Capitol Hill lawmakers to hurry up and either repeal U.S. labeling rules or alter and amend them.
U.S. meat industry was also pleased with the WTO ruling because keeping separate records on livestock is a costly process. Farmers and meat processors currently seek the full repeal of the country-of-origin labeling requirements.
Canada and Mexico currently request the same thing from the U.S. otherwise they would ask the WTO’s permission to apply penalties on U.S. exports.
Canadian officials said that the current labeling rules were harming meat industry and meat supply chain in all three countries involved in the dispute. Because of the labeling and additional costs some U.S. meat processors refused to buy imported meat.
Canada and Mexico announced that they were negotiating with the U.S. on the issue. The National Farmers Union, which is one of the groups that pushed for the current labeling system, suggested that negotiations were a better solution that Congress’ direct intervention.
The NFU said that following a WTO decision, countries usually work together toward finding the best solution that fits everybody’s interests.
“In this case, such a solution must involve continuation of a meaningful country-of-origin labeling requirement,”
the NFU added.
The current U.S. labeling requirements were introduced by two separate laws in 2008 and 2012 at the pressure of the north American meat industry which was competing with Mexican and Canadian farms. Initially, the labels read “Product of U.S.” or “Product of U.S. and Mexico.”
Yet, in 2012 Canada and Mexico filed a complaint with the WTO, which rejected the 2008 labels. So, the USDA had to revise labels and request that meat processors specify where the animals were born and slaughtered. However, the WTO ruled against those revised rules, as well, and the U.S. filed an appeal which was rejected yesterday.
Image Source: Indiana Public Media
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