WASHINGTON — Congress approved legislation to suspend country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for certain muscle cuts of meat that will avoid costly trade retaliation by Canada and Mexico. The U.S. Senate approved the measure by a vote of 65-33 following the bill’s passage in the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 316-113.
Last week, it was announced that language to repeal COOL was added to the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, or the Omnibus bill. The World Trade Organization had ruled against U.S. COOL policy and authorized Canada and Mexico to impose retaliatory tariffs topping $1 billion. Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said he hoped the Senate could pass the bill in time to prevent retaliation by Canada and Mexico.
Philip Ellis, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, called the repeal a significant victory for America’s cattle producers.
“COOL has plagued our industry for many years now, costing us millions and driving us to the brink of retaliation from two of our largest trading partners,” Mr. Ellis said. “Cattle producers have had to bear the cost of this failed program for far too long, and we commend the leadership of Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway and Representative Jim Costa (of California) for ensuring the United States is brought back into compliance with our trade obligations.”In a statement, Mr. Roberts said, “For several years now, the writing has been on the wall that U.S. COOL requirements for meat were doomed at the W.T.O. Since its inception, I have warned that retaliation was coming, and I’m pleased American agriculture and businesses will escape these tariffs.”