WTO Finds Country of Origin Labeling a Technical Barrier to Trade
On November 18, 2011, the World Trade Organization (WTO) published its report on the ongoing Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) dispute. Implemented in 2008 as part of the Farm Bill, U.S. manufacturers began requiring country-of-origin to be designated in labeling of meats and other goods regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Found here, the WTO report details the complaints raised by Canada and Mexico, including the contention that the labeling requirements constitute Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), in violation of international treaties between the countries.
Ultimately, the WTOs decision was mixed. While the COOL requirements were generally found to pose technical barriers to trade by discouraging imports from Canada and Mexico, the U.S. did not lose out completely. Rather, WTO decided that although the COOL requirements must stop generally, there are certain exceptions to its findings, including meat. Thus, country of origin labeling will continue to be declared on meat products in the United States without further issue from Canada or Mexico. In addition, because the decisions of the WTO are not technically binding, it is possible for the COOL program to continue in the United States with only informal action, such as tariffs, etc., available as recourse.
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