World Trade Organization ruling unlikely to change U.S. labelling laws

QUEBEC CITY — When a World Trade Organization decision comes down on United States country-of-origin labelling rules, likely on June 29, the U.S will lose again, predicts an American meat industry leader.

In the end, not much will change, American Meat Institute senior official Mark Dopp told the Canadian Meat Council annual meeting June 1.

In late June, a WTO appeal panel is expected to rule on a U.S. challenge of an earlier judgment that COOL rules fly in the face of WTO attempts to end protectionism.

“The expectation is that the United States will again lose,” said Dopp. “It doesn’t mean COOL is going away. It is not.”

Part of the reason is that congressional protectionist sentiment is strong, particularly in an election year.

And the original WTO ruling said that while COOL rules and implementation violate international trade rules, the assumption that country-of-origin labelling is consumer education is valid even if poorly implemented.

It means, said Dopp, that labelling still will continue but Congress will have to rewrite the law to make it less overtly protectionist.

But nothing will be done until after congressional and presidential elections in November and the launch of the new Congress in early 2013.

He said election of Republican candidate Mitt Romney as president could help the push to change the COOL rules since he is a conservative and anti-protectionist. “If (Democratic president Barack) Obama wins again, heaven help us.”

But whichever side wins in November, “COOL will not be going away,” said the American packing industry executive.

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