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Civil Society Organizations Urge President Obama Not to Weaken or Eliminate COOL After WTO Ruling

By Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

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Dear President Obama,

We write with deep disappointment that this week the World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body issued a final ruling against the U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) policy that allows American consumers to know where their meat is produced. COOL is a commonsense food safety protection supported by nine out of ten Americans. It applies equally to domestic and foreign producers.

Earlier this month, you defended your administration’s efforts to obtain Fast Track authority for the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by stating, “critics warn that parts of this deal would undermine American regulation – food safety, worker safety, even financial regulations. They’re making this stuff up. This is just not true. No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.”

However, last month, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack testified before the Senate Finance Committee that if the WTO ruled against COOL, Congress would “have to fix it by either repealing COOL or modifying COOL to create some kind of more generic label.” On May 1, Secretary Vilsack formally informed Congress that if the WTO ruled against COOL, the U.S. response “could include statutory changes such as repeal of the COOL requirements or establishing a generic label.” Either option would constitute an unacceptable rollback of this popular food safety protection. Either would also directly contradict your assurance that “no trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.”