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American Shipper

Canada icy toward proposed U.S. COOL amendment

U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and John Hoeven introduced legislation Thursday that they say addresses the WTO’s ruling against current U.S. country-of-origin labeling.

   U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., introduced legislation Thursday that they say addresses the World Trade Organization’s ruling against current U.S. country-of-origin labeling.
   The senators said their proposed 2015 Voluntary Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) and Trade Enhancement Act would comply with the WTO ruling by removing certain meat products from the mandatory labeling program, satisfying concerns of both Canada and Mexico. Additionally, the legislation would implement a voluntary label to help consumers identify meats that are “Products of the U.S.”
   “If consumers in Canada have the right to know where their food comes from through a voluntary labeling system, then American consumers should have the same,” Stabenow said in a statement. “This bill is a path forward and will encourage international trade while giving families peace of mind.”
   Specifically, the Stabenow-Hoeven bill would establish a voluntary “Product of the U.S.” label for beef, pork, chicken, and ground meat products that are from animals born, raised, and harvested in the United States. Stabenow is a long-time COOL supporter and has led an effort in the Senate to maintain a country-of-origin label in the wake of the WTO decision.
   In May, the WTO ruled for the fourth, and final, time that the United States’ mandatory COOL law violates international trade agreements. As a result of the WTO’s ruling, Canada and Mexico have the ability to impose retaliatory sanctions and tariffs if the U.S. fails to address the current COOL law. Stabenow said her bill would help prevent these tariffs by repealing the mandatory label, while also creating a voluntary option to help consumers who want to know where their food is coming from.
   Other Senate co-sponsors of the Voluntary COOL Act include Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Amy Klobucharm, D-Minn.; John Thune, R-S.D.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.
   Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and International Trade Minister Ed Fast, who referred to Stabenow’s bill as “COOL 2.0,” warned it “fails to address Canada’s concerns and would continue to undermine our integrated North American supply chains.” 
   “By continuing the segregation of and discrimination against Canadian cattle and hogs, Sen. Stabenow’s measure will harm farmers, ranchers, packers, retailers and consumers on both sides of the border. This is contrary to successive World Trade Organization (WTO) decisions that have clearly ruled in Canada’s favor,” the Canadian officials said.
   “The U.S. Senate must follow the lead of the House of Representatives and put forward legislation that repeals COOL once and for all,” Ritz and Fast warned. “The only acceptable outcome remains for the United States to repeal COOL or face $3 billion in annual retaliation.”

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