Final Trip Report: Mission to Washington, DC - February 3-5, 2015

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 Purpose of travel:
The purpose of this trip was to meet with members of the United States (US) Congress to advocate for a repeal of mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for meat products.

The US COOL law requires meat to be labeled in detail according to the country in which each production stage (birth, raising and slaughter) occurred. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has found that COOL unfairly discriminates against imported Canadian cattle and hogs.

This WTO dispute has been extensive. In June 2012, the WTO issued a ruling that COOL discriminates against Canadian livestock, and is inconsistent with US WTO trade obligations. The US appealed that ruling and lost. The US then instituted a new and harsher COOL regime and claimed compliance with the earlier panel’s ruling. Canada challenged this claim, which led to the latest ruling on June 27, 2014.

On October 20, 2014, the WTO Compliance Panel publicly released its report. The Panel ruled that the US revised COOL regime does not comply with WTO rules.

On November 28, 2014, the US formally notified the WTO of its intention to appeal to the Appellate Body. Canada and Mexico have also filed appeals. The case was heard on February 16 - 17, 2015, with a ruling expected in late spring 2015. After a ruling on any forthcoming US appeal, or if the US loses the appeal, Canada would be in a position to impose retaliatory tariffs.

Mission Objectives:
  • To contribute to the advocacy efforts of government and industry seeking a repeal of COOL by supporting the Honourable Gerry Ritz, Canada’s Minister of Agriculture and AgriFood, during this mission.
  • To meet with key senators and representatives to outline Alberta’s position on COOL and build support for a repeal of COOL.
  • To draw attention to the negative impact of COOL on the meat and livestock industry in the US and Canada and underline the desirability of avoiding retaliatory tariffs on US exports to Canada if the US fails to bring COOL into compliance with its obligations as a member of the WTO.

The results included the fulsome discussions that took place during the roundtables and individual meetings with members of Congress. These included:

Roundtable with COOL Reform Coalition
  • The COOL Reform Coalition, led by the National Association of Manufacturers and the US Chamber of Commerce, have joined together with the US meat industry to signal our concern about the broad impact retaliation could have on a wide variety of industries, including many well removed from agriculture.
  • The Coalition is comprised of over 100 US companies and associations including noteworthy organizations such as: Agri Beef Co., National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Association, North American Meat Institute, and Tyson Foods, Inc.
  • On October 30, 2014, the Coalition issued a letter to the US Congress stating “the grave concern about the negative impact that the existing US Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rule for muscle cuts of meat will have on the US economy.”
  • On November 21, 2014, the Coalition issued a second letter “urging Congress (to) act swiftly to build a contingency plan for the US COOL law regarding beef and pork muscle cuts to protect US jobs and exports. Given the negative impact on the US manufacturing and agriculture economies, we respectfully submit that it would be intolerable for the United States to maintain, even briefly, requirements that have been deemed non-compliant by the WTO.”

Roundtable with COOL Barnyard Coalition
  • The “Barnyard Coalition” is the name given to the US cattle and hog producers and packers who are opposed to COOL.
  • While Barnyard Coalition members have joined the umbrella "COOL Reform Coalition", there are some significant differences between Barnyard members and the leading Reform Coalition members (who include the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Corn Refiners Association).
  • The primary motivation of the Reform Coalition to date has been to ensure that Canadian and Mexican retaliatory tariffs are not applied to their products. They have consequently focused on the removal of the discriminatory elements of the COOL legislation, but have been otherwise willing to keep COOL legislation intact.
  • The Barnyard Coalition, on the other hand, is concerned with the broader implications of mandatory COOL laws, in terms of the cost of their application and the precedent that they may set in other labelling issues (e.g., GMOs).
  • Within the Barnyard Coalition, there has been a range of views on the best approach to addressing COOL, with some industry groups (e.g., the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association) pushing for full repeal of mandatory COOL legislation and no legislative compromise on the issue, and others (e.g., the National Pork Producers Council) being more willing to compromise, if it would remove the existing discrimination and prevent retaliatory tariffs.

Meetings with Members of Congress
Representative Michael Conaway (R-TX) - Replaced Frank Lucas as Chair
Representative Robert Aderholt (R-AL)
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS)

Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Senator James Lankford (R-OK)
Representative Jim Costa (D-CA)

Minister Verlyn Olson, Agriculture and Rural Development, Government of Alberta
Nick Harsulla, Chief of Staff, Government of Alberta

Government of Canada
Honourable Gerry Ritz, Federal Minister
Tyler McCann, Federal Government, Policy Advisor, Minister’s office
Jeffrey English, Federal Government, Director, Communications
Doug Forsyth, Federal Government, Executive Director, Strategic Trade Policy

Dave Solverson, President, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association
Dennis Laycraft, Executive Vice President, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association
Martin Rice, Executive Director, Canadian Pork Council
Andrew Dickson, General Manager, Manitoba Pork Council
Peter Clark, Consultant, Canadian Pork Council
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Kelly Bernard.
This information published to the web on April 7, 2015.