WTO appeal panel to rule on COOL by mid-May at latest

A World Trade Organization panel, after hearing the U.S. government’s appeal in defense of mandatory country-of-origin labelling (COOL) for meat, now expects to file its decision no later than May 18.

The WTO Appellate Body, which on Feb. 17 heard the U.S. appeal and rebuttals from Canada and Mexico, served notice Thursday to the WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) that the appellate panel needs more time to complete and circulate its reports.

For U.S. officials, the appeal represents a last chance to overturn previous rulings against COOL by the DSB, the Appellate Body and, last fall, a DSB compliance panel.

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If the Appellate Body panel finds for Canada and Mexico, the two countries would be in a position to launch the process toward retaliatory tariffs on chosen U.S. imports.

The Appellate Body said its reasons for an extension to mid-May include the body’s “current workload” as well as “the number and complexity of the issues raised in these appeal proceedings, and the demands that this places on the WTO Secretariat’s translation services.”

The parties to the COOL dispute and “third participants” have also asked for and received extensions on deadlines for filing written submissions in this appeal, the Appellate Body noted Thursday. Australia was named as a third participant in a previous notice from the Appellate Body.

The panel also said its need for an extension also stems from “scheduling difficulties arising from an overlap in the composition of the divisions hearing appeals currently pending before the Appellate Body.”

The Appellate Body in such cases generally gets up to three months to complete its report after formal notice of an appeal is filed. The U.S., in this case, filed its notice last Nov. 28.

Passed by the U.S. government in 2008 and implemented in 2009, mandatory COOL requires country-of-origin labelling for beef, pork, lamb, chicken and goat meat, and certain perishable commodities sold at retail outlets in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s revisions to COOL in 2013, in the wake of the Appellate Body’s first ruling, tightened COOL’s labelling provisions for muscle cuts of meat. COOL now requires covered products’ labels to include even more specific information about where each production step — birth, raising, slaughter — took place.

The DSB compliance panel last October found the revised COOL rule “increases the original COOL measure’s detrimental impact on the competitive opportunities of imported Canadian livestock.” — AGCanada.com Network

 

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