With threats of tariffs on U.S. fruit hanging in the balance, more than 100 members of the U.S. House have asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to rescind country-of-origin-labeling regulations if the World Trade Organization rules that they violate free trade agreements.
The request came a day after a Washington D.C. Circuit Court ruled against a cattle industry group and upheld the labeling law on July 29. A decision from the WTO was anticipated by the end of July, but it was not issued. The Washington Trade Daily reported the WTO appeal panel plans to release its ruling in September.
Congress should resolve the issue, according to a letter sent to Vilsack by U.S. Reps. Rick Crawford and Jim Costa, the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Subcommittee on Livestock, Rural Development, and Credit.
In total, 112 representatives signed the letter to Vilsack, including Costa and 19 other Democrats.
“The impact of potential retaliatory actions poses a significant risk to the American economy,” according to the letter. “Should the WTO rule against the United States, we request the Administration — specifically the secretary of agriculture — rescind the final rule while Congress works to permanently resolve this issue.”
Canadian officials said in July 2013 they would impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. cherries, apples and a variety of other goods if the law is not changed. Mexican officials have not indicated what U.S. foods or goods they would target.
In June, an ad hoc coalition asked Congress to rescind the COOL law. The 62-member coalition includes the California Strawberry Commission, California Walnut Commission and the North American Blueberry Council.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture revised the law in May 2013 because of objections from Canada and Mexico, which contend it gives an unfair advantage to muscle cuts of pork and beef from the U.S.
Canadian and Mexican officials have said USDA’s revisions made the law more problematic. Canada responded with the tariff threat, which could effect the 2015 cherry and apple crops.
Several countries and the European Union have signed on to the Canadian challenge as interested third parties, according to the WTO website. Those countries are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Guatemala, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Chinese Taipei.