The battle over country-of-origin labeling (COOL) between the U.S. and its North American neighbors may finally be, well, cooling off.
Thanks to its inclusion in the omnibus spending bill passed Friday, COOL has finally been repealed after years of controversy. Intended to provide more transparency to consumers about their food, COOL has been a sticking point with Canada and Mexico. Those two countries have asserted that the law violates their trade agreements with the U.S. and puts their products at an economic disadvantage.
After the WTO recently ruled in Canada and Mexico’s favor on the labeling, the two countries threatened to slap as much as $1 billion in tariffs on U.S. products.
Today’s repeal may bring an end to the ongoing trade skirmish.
“U.S. exporters can now breathe a sigh of relief,” said Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), who chairs the Senate Agriculture committee. “From the ranchers in Kansas to the jewelry makers on the East Coast, every state had something to lose from keeping mandatory COOL intact. Those worries can now be put to rest."
In terms of meat labeling, USDA said it would take quick action in response to the law's repeal.
“Effective immediately, USDA is not enforcing the COOL requirements for muscle cut and ground beef and pork outlined in the January 2009 and May 2013 final rules,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement Friday.
The agency said it would be “amending the COOL regulations as expeditiously as possible to reflect the repeal of the beef and pork provisions.”
Canada welcomed the shift.
“We are very pleased that U.S. President Barack Obama said today he will sign into law a bill that will repeal COOL for beef and pork,” said Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of International Trade and Lawrence MacAulay, Canada’s Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, in a statement. “…Today’s developments mean that Canada’s beef and pork industries will be able to compete on a level playing field. We look forward to the restoration of full access to the U.S. market for Canada’s beef and pork, benefitting our farmers and our economy. Canada will actively monitor to ensure that the incentives to discriminate against Canadian cattle and hogs are quickly removed from the marketplace.”