A World Trade Organization appellate body upheld today an earlier ruling by a dispute panel that U.S. country-of-origin labeling law violates Washington’s obligations under WTO trade obligations.
Canada originally requested WTO’s consultations in December 2008. Later Mexico joined the complaint, both countries arguing that the U.S. meat labeling law enacted in March 2009 stymied their ability to export live cattle and hogs into the United States. Washington appealed in March.
In today’s ruling the appellate body agreed that the COOL measure was “detrimental” to imported livestock “because its recordkeeping and verification requirements create an incentive for processors to use exclusively domestic livestock, and a disincentive against using like imported livestock.”
In its own analysis, however, the appellate body said the measure “lacks even-handedness because its recordkeeping and verification requirements impose a disproportionate burden on upstream producers and processors of livestock as compared to the information conveyed to consumers” on meat sold at retail.
The dispute panel had found that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s letter to the meatpacking industry asking them to voluntarily follow additional labeling requirements violated the Technical Barriers to Trade agreement. Canada had asked the appellate body to consider the matter also, but withdrew that requests after Washington asserted that this measure had been withdrawn.