Facing the prospect of a billion dollars a year worth of retaliatory tariffs by Mexico and Canada, the United States Congress today voted to repeal meat labeling rules that violated trade agreements.
Parts of the country of origin meat labeling (COOL) law that the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled were discriminatory were repealed through their inclusion earlier this week in an “omnibus” spending bill.
Mexico and Canada have been fighting the COOL legislation for several years, winning the support of the WTO, which on December 7 authorized the two countries to impose up to US $1 billion a year in tariffs.
Mexico was set to slap tariffs on apples, dairy products, alcoholic beverages and health products within hours of getting authorization to do so.
But the bill, which will now go to President Barack Obama for his signature, avoids such tariffs and more, and that will make the U.S. meat industry and manufacturers happy.
“Repeal of these COOL provisions is the only solution remaining that will protect U.S. manufacturing jobs, and we are relieved that this spending deal includes this essential provision,” Linda Dempsey of the National Association of Manufacturers said in a statement after the bill was presented Tuesday night.
Others, however, saw it as a step backward in consumer protection. “Unfortunately, Congress bowed to pressure from the meatpackers . . . in order to obey the dictates of a World Trade Organization ruling,” said Food & Water Watch, a Washington-based non-governmental organization.
The COOL law was seen as a benefit to consumers because it required meat producers to indicate on the labels where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.