The legal wrangling over country of origin labeling (COOL) took a new turn this week, when the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) filed a brief in the World Trade Organization dispute over the issue. The brief states that the $3 billion sought by Mexico and Canada in retaliatory tariffs vastly overestimate damages.
The brief recommends that the damage limits be set at $43.22 million for Canada and $47.55 million for Mexico. USTR says that the methods used by the two countries to estimate damage was flawed and “severely overestimates the level of nullification or impairment attributable” to COOL.
Food & Water Watch’s Wenonah Hauter said in a statement, “the WTO has never certified Canada and Mexico’s absurdly high claims for damages from the COOL case and is only now considering what levels of penalties might be appropriate. The USTR filing demonstrates that the penalties could – indeed should – be a tiny fraction of the $3 billion penalty used by Congress to justify repealing or weakening COOL before the final penalty is assessed by the WTO.”
Most consumers want to see labels on their food, especially meats such as beef and poultry, that tells them where the product was grown, harvested, and processed. Consumer protection agencies and watchdogs support this labeling. The WTO has consistently ruled against the United States on this issue. An arbitration hearing will be help in Geneva, Switzerland in September 2015 to consider the USTR brief.