Trade sanctions loom after U.S. updates meat rules

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“These changes will not bring the United States into compliance with its WTO obligations. These changes will increase discrimination against Canadian cattle and hogs and increase damages to industry on both sides of the border,” they wrote. “Canada will consider all options at its disposal, including, if necessary, the use of retaliatory measures.

The next step will be for Canada and Mexico to seek a WTO compliance panel to determine if the rule actually fixes the original barriers to trade. If the WTO finds the U.S. in violation, the WTO could begin a process of assessing damage and approving retaliation.

Under WTO rules, the retaliation could go beyond the beef industry and even beyond agricultural products.

In the meantime, congressional battles over COOL are on hold, industry sources said.

Two amendments repealing COOL were discussed but withdrawn during House and Senate markups of the 2014 farm bill. 

Rep. Randy NeugebauerRobert (Randy) Randolph NeugebauerCordray announces he's leaving consumer bureau, promotes aide to deputy director GOP eager for Trump shake-up at consumer bureau Lobbying World MORE (R-Texas), who has tried to end the program in the past, said he was against the new changes. He would be a likely source of a COOL repeal bill if the WTO rules against the new version. 

“It will impose additional costs on the industry, which will be passed on to consumers, and for what purpose?  There’s no additional information about food safety contained in the required labels.  It seems like this process is being driven by politics, and not what’s best for our consumers or producers,” he said. 

But the chances for success of a repeal remains an open question. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees trade, remains a proponent of the labeling, which is supported by some ranchers. 

“Sen. Baucus supports country-of-origin labeling because it shows consumers where their meat products come from.  USDA recently published a modified rule to our COOL program that addresses the WTO findings.  He will continue to closely monitor this issue,” committee spokesman Sean Neary said.