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Reuters reports that the World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled that "the United States had not done enough to change its labeling rules, requiring retailers such as grocery stores to list the country of origin on meat, after it lost an earlier WTO challenge.

"Canada and Mexico called on the United States to repeal the rules and said they were prepared to retaliate if needed against U.S. exports. Previous estimates have put the cost of tariffs as high as $2 billion."

The story notes that the WTO originally ruled two years ago "that the U.S. meat labelling program, known as country-of-origin labeling (COOL), unfairly discriminated against Canada and Mexico because it gave less favorable treatment to beef and pork imported from those countries than to U.S. meat, which is illegal according to WTO rules."

"The announcement today by the WTO dispute panel on the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling rule brings us all one step closer to facing retaliatory tariffs from two of our largest trading partners," said National Cattlemen's Beef Association President Bob McCan in urging the Obama administration and the US Congress to fix the rules.

Andrew Harig, director of government relations at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), released the following statement: "“The findings in the WTO’s panel report on meat labeling come as no surprise and mirror many of the concerns that FMI and its partners up and down the supply chain have raised about COOL and the 2013 regulatory revisions. The WTO decision makes it clear that there are problems with the law that only Congress can address. Rather than continuing to ‘run out the clock’ on the WTO process, we urge Congress to act as expeditiously as possible to bring the law into compliance with our trade commitments and put an end to the threat of tariffs by Canada and Mexico on U.S. exports."
KC's View:
Laws and governments can resist transparency. But it only works in the short-term, because eventually, information and consumers' desire for total disclosure will win out.