Economic sanctions could target Missouri, as well as the other 49 states, if the U.S. doesn’t lift the requirement that meat be labeled according to the country it came from.
The World Trade Organization has for the fourth time ruled against the United States’ Country of Origin Labeling program (COOL), saying it discriminates against Mexican and Canadian livestock. The United States is out of appeals, and now Canadian General Consul Roy Norton says Canada is preparing to ask the Organization for permission to enact tariffs on its imports from the U.S.
“It’s not Canada’s objective or desire to retaliate against any product coming from the United States – Missouri, or any other state – to Canada. We love Missouri products,” said Norton. “But we feel that, having one four times in the court of law and nothing having happened so far on this, we have no choice but to signal a willingness to retaliate. When the WTO tells us, probably by September, what the dollar value of our losses has been, we will then have the final authority, as it were, to retaliate, if the United States hasn’t acted in the interim.”
Canada has identified about $60-million dollars’ worth of Missouri products it imports that could face tariffs. Top targets are cereals, which represent $25-million in exports a year; iron or steel grinding balls, the export of which are valued at $14-million; and baked goods including bread and cakes, worth $13-million.
Mexico’s market for Missouri goods is more than twice as large as Canada’s, and it’s also considering tariffs.
Legislation is moving in Washington to eliminate the labeling program. This week it cleared the House Agriculture Committee. Three members of Missouri’s Congressional Delegation; Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R, MO-4) and Congressmen Sam Graves (R, MO-6) and Billy Long (R, MO-7), are sponsors of that bill.
Hartzler, after voting in favor of the bill with a majority of the committee’s members, issued a statement in which she called COOL a “troublesome” law.
“I have heard many times from the producers and livestock owners in Missouri of the negative effects of this provision,” wrote Hartzler. “The truth is the COOL program amounts to nothing more than a government mandated marketing program that does not provide any real value to producers or consumers.”
Supporters of COOL say the U.S. has a right to implement the labeling program and say Canada and other countries’ opposition is based on American consumers’ preference for U.S. products. They argue the WTO shouldn’t be allowed to decide U.S. food policy.
COOL backers also say labeling is a food safety issue, noting that a cow recently tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a degenerative neurological disease in cattle. It is the first such case in Canada since 2011. Norton argues COOL has nothing to do with food safety.
“The argument is made, but without any factual basis,” he told Missourinet.