Wednesday, November 19, 2014

No COOL fix, says top U.S. official

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says he lacks authority to change Country-of-Origin Labeling regulations to bring them into line with World Trade Organization standards.

And he says the United States has not yet decided whether it will file an appeal of the latest WTO ruling in favour of complaints about COOL by Canada and Mexico.

Vilsack told the National Association of Farm Broadcasters that USDA doesn’t see a regulatory “fix” to U.S. country-of-origin labeling law.

In a weekend press conference at the NAFB's convention in Kansas City, the Secretary said, in response to a question, “We have looked at this from every different angle. I can tell you we do not think there's a regulatory fix that would allow us to be consistent with the law … and to satisfy the WTO.” 

Vilsack said on the broadcast he sees only a couple ways to solve the problem. Either Canada and Mexico can more clearly direct what if any variation would work for them, or Congress will have to provide “different directions” that would allow the agency to satisfy WTO obligations and prevent trade retaliations.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office is considering an appeal of the WTO ruling, Vilsack said.

"I have not asked my team how strong the appeal might be," he added.

A recording of the entire press conference is posted on the website.