Saturday, June 13, 2015

COOL Law for imported meat products in the US negated-A logical move

"Bullying can be met only with counter bullying" is a hard learned experience which people and nations are well to remember. The regressive measure on the part of the US government to compel meat industry in that country to declare country of origin  (COOL Law) for meat products imported and marketed in that country generated lot of heat earlier. Strong reaction from countries like Canada and Mexico which are natural and neighborly trade partners of the US, threatening to impose retaliatory taxing on US products imported by them seems to have had its salutary effect on the law makers in that country, leading to the cancellation of this law. WTO also had taken this issue seriously promising punitive action against the US, if COOL law is not scrapped. Here is a commentary on this issue which would have snowballed into major global flash point adversely affecting food business world wide.     

"The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to repeal the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) Amendments Act of 2015 for meat--specifically beef, chicken and pork. The bill, spearheaded by Rep. Michael Conaway (R-Texas), passed with a vote of 300-131 late Wednesday evening.
The COOL Act requires that meat packaging sold in the U.S. must display a few pieces of crucial information:  * where the animals are born, raised and ultimately slaughtered.  * whether or not any of those steps occurred in different countries The bill was originally introduced in May on the same day the World Trade Organization (WTO) shot down a U.S. appeal of their stance that COOL favors domestically sourced meat while unreasonably singling out meat imported from countries like Canada and Mexico. Conaway believes that the COOL program doesn't work, saying that "it is time to put this failed experiment behind us once and for all." He and other representatives stand firm that meat labeling has zero impact on food safety. The repeal is a win for the U.S. meat industry having already experienced some strain in relation to the COOL Act. Supporters of the repeal are also pleased to not have to endure retaliatory taxing by Canada and Mexico in the tune of $3.6 billion which the WTO authorized to go into effect within 60 days of the final ruling. The repeal of the act is a loss for consumers though, one of the main groups that supports country-of-origin labeling simply for informational purposes. House Democrats are ready to move on, saying that while the COOL Act had good intentions, the WTO has rejected it four times. Therefore, repealing it and moving on is in everyone's best interest. The WTO will convene yet again next week to consider Canada and Mexico's plans for retaliatory taxes imposed on the U.S."

A pertinent question that arises from this sorry episode is the inability of the food safety authorities in the US to apply its mind before promulgating such an "apartheid" resembling Act. After all consumer is least interested to know from where his food comes as long as they are safe and conforms to quality specifications laid down in the statute books. Meat industry in the US is right in claiming that such a discriminatory law would affect its fortunes severely, adding further to the labeling cost significantly while it does not serve any purpose. One can understand if country of origin information enables the consumer to determine the carbon foot print of the product which increases with the distance traveled by the product before it reaches the US shores. But that is not the reality and consumers can only think in terms of buying locally produced products putting even better products from other countries in great disadvantage upsetting the very basis of WTO foundation! Protectionists policies can be pursued only if wealthy countries like the US start "cocking a snook" at economically weaker nations who have no strength to defend themselves from such patently unjust and unilateral actions. Present set of US law makers are to be congratulated for correcting an historical mistake with far reaching consequences, restoring the credibility of America as an honest and humanitarian country.   


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