Mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) violates the United States’ international trade obligations that must be honored, the American Meat Institute (AMI) told the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on Friday (Jan. 8).

AMI’s comments were in response to a Dec. 4, 2009 Federal Register notice. In late 2009, Canada and Mexico filed a case against the United States with the World Trade Organization (WTO), affirming their earlier outspoken opposition to the labeling law when it was being considered by Congress.

AMI Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and General Counsel Mark Dopp says that equitable enforcement of international trade rules is a high priority for all parties, and that all too often, market access for U.S. meat products has been threatened or cut off with little or no legal reason.

“American challenges to these actions have been based upon the rights provided under international trade agreements. These challenges will continue, as demonstrated by a recent limitation to an important market for beef. Critical to the United States’ ability to enforce successfully WTO and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) obligations is consistency in U.S. behavior and actions,” Dopp says. “In that regard, the United States’ credibility is provided for in the 2002 Farm Bill (and modified in the 2008 Farm Bill) and as implemented through regulations that became effective March 16, 2009, are not consistent with U.S. obligations under both WTO and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and NAFTA.”

COOL discriminates in its effect on imported meat and imported live animals, Dopp says.

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