WTO Approves $1 Billion in Tariffs in Retaliation against US Meat Labeling Rules

December 7, 2015

National Chicken Council urges Congress to repeal ‘Country-of-Origin Labeling’ law to avoid retaliation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled today that Canada and Mexico can slap more than $1 billion in tariffs on U.S. goods in retaliation for meat labeling rules it says discriminate against Mexican and Canadian livestock.

The U.S. Congress in 2008 during its debate of the Farm Bill made Country-of-Origin Labeling  (COOL) mandatory for beef, pork and lamb products, requiring meat be labeled with the country from where the animal was born/hatched, raised and harvested.  During conference committee negotiations, chicken was incorporated into the legislation voluntarily.

“I am keenly aware that chicken and fowl could be at the top of the list for retaliation by Canada and Mexico, and that this labeling law continues to leave the door open for retaliatory action by other countries, too,” said National Chicken Council (NCC) President Mike Brown in response to today’s announcement by the WTO.  “NCC supports legislative action that will bring U.S. laws and regulations pertaining to meat and poultry into full compliance with our international trade obligations.  NCC urges Congress to repeal the labeling provision for chicken, beef and pork now.”

USDA has repeatedly tried to address the WTO’s concerns about the COOL statute, but the COOL regulations remain unacceptable and illegal according to the WTO.  As a result of today’s announcement, Canada and Mexico are poised to retaliate against over $1 billion of U.S. exports.

Today’s ruling cannot be appealed further and is expected to get formal approval by the WTO’s dispute settlement body later this month, according to reports.  Without legislation to repeal COOL, retaliation will begin in mid-December.  The U.S. House of Representatives in June voted by a 300-131 margin to repeal the meat labeling provisions, but the Senate has yet to act on the matter.

Canada and Mexico are two of the U.S. chicken industry’s largest trading partners and COOL continues to jeopardize those relationships. The U.S. exported $1.23 billion worth of chicken meat to Canada and Mexico in 2014, representing 27.3 percent of the value of all of our exports for the year.

“Losing access to two of our key export markets would be a devastating blow to U.S. chicken farmers and producers,” Brown concluded.

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