Legal Fight Against COOL Remains Alive, With WTO Ruling Coming Soon

A coalition of North American meat and livestock organizations is keeping its legal options open as it attempts to have U.S. country of origin labeling (COOL) rules repealed.

According to the industry, COOL is costing Canadian cattle and hog producers around a billion dollars per year.

On Friday, a group that includes the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and the Canadian Pork Council, as well as meat and livestock organizations from the U.S. and Mexico, filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC.

As John Masswohl, the CCA’s director of government and international relations, explains in the interview below, this step effectively keeps the door open on a legal challenge — a route that could be taken if they’re not satisfied with the result of the dispute settlement process underway through the World Trade Organization.

“We’ll wait and see what happens with the WTO,” he explains. “Developments at the WTO could render the court process moot at some point, but if not, we’ve kept that option open.”

The coalition, led by the American Meat Institute, applied for a preliminary injunction to block the latest version of COOL back in the spring of 2013.

“We initiated this court challenge with the hope being that if we could get a quick preliminary injunction and have the COOL rule be in suspension while we waited for the WTO, that would be a worthwhile effort,” he says.

However, the application for that preliminary injunction was denied, and subsequent appeals were also rejected earlier this year.

Related: Suspend COOL if WTO Rules Against U.S.

As Masswohl explains, a WTO compliance panel ruling that could eventually open the door to retaliatory trade action is expected in the coming weeks. He says rulings of this nature are usually made public around 10 days prior to WTO dispute settlement body meetings, which are scheduled for late September, October and the middle of November.

“I’m not expecting it will be here in time for the September meeting. I would be the most hopeful for ahead of that meeting in late October,” says Masswohl.

A report in the Wall Street Journal in late August indicated the WTO ruling will be in Canada’s favour.

John Masswohl shares an update on the court and WTO challenges against COOL:

If you can’t see the audio player, click here.


Kelvin Heppner

Kelvin Heppner is a field editor for Real Agriculture based near Altona, Manitoba. Prior to joining Real Ag he spent more than 10 years working in radio. He farms with his father near Rosenfeld, MB and is on Twitter at @realag_kelvin


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