[author: Shannon Doyle]
On September 1, 2012, advocacy groups filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado challenging the recent WTO ruling against U.S. statutory provisions and regulations establishing mandatory country of origin labeling (“COOL”) for meat products. The WTO Appellate Body held in United States - Certain Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) Requirements that the COOL requirements are inconsistent with the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. The plaintiffs, Made in the USA Foundation, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers Association, and Melonhead, LLC (a meat and vegetable distributor) have named the United States, the WTO, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack as defendants in their suit. The complaint is available here.
The plaintiffs argue that the WTO’s ruling is invalid because, under the Uruguay Round Agreements Act, conflicts arising between U.S. law and the WTO Appellate Body should be settled according to U.S. law. The plaintiffs also argue that one of the members of the WTO dispute settlement panel that issued the initial ruling on the case had “an obvious conflict of interest” because he is a Mexican national. The plaintiffs are seeking a declaration from the court that the WTO “has no authority to override U.S. law” and that the decision in United States - Certain Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) Requirements is invalid. The plaintiffs are also seeking an order instructing Secretary Vilsack to implement and enforce the COOL requirements.
For additional information regarding the COOL requirements and the WTO dispute settlement process, see the August 2012 edition of the Trade and Manufacturing Alert.