by SUSAN MANN
American and Canadian meat and livestock groups have so far failed in their attempt using the American court system to block the amended rules for U.S. Country of Origin Labelling from coming into force.
On Friday, a panel of three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit rejected the group’s request for a preliminary injunction to stop the May 2013 amendments to the COOL law from being installed. The amendments were brought in by the U.S. Department of Agriculture after the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled in 2012 the original COOL law, implemented in 2008, does not comply with the United States’ trade obligations.
The Court of Appeals decision upholds a September 2013 the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia decision to deny the groups’ request for a preliminary injunction as part of the larger lawsuit to stop the implementation of the amended COOL rules.
Canadian Pork Council spokesman Gary Stordy says they originally joined the American groups’ court challenge last July because “we were wanting and hoped to have a swift reaction from the U.S. courts” to stop COOL. The legislation requires meat in the United States to be labelled with details of where animals were born, raised and processed.
“We felt we didn’t want to miss the opportunity for a more speedy response to return back to more normal marketing conditions,” he says. “But that hasn’t materialized because of these court cases.”
The Canadian Pork Council is evaluating its next steps in the American groups’ lawsuit, while the U.S. meat and livestock groups that launched the court challenge are working to figure out where they go from here, Stordy says.
John Masswohl, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association director of government and international relations, says the case still has to be heard on its merits and a timetable for that hasn’t been set yet.
The Canadian Cattlemen’s and Canadian Pork Council are among the 10 groups in the lawsuit. The Canadian Cattlemen’s lawyers and lawyers for the other groups are going through the ruling “to see if there are any other opportunities or not,” Masswohl says. “We’re waiting for that legal advice as to whether there’s something that can be done in the short term.”
The court challenge is separate and distinct from the WTO dispute settlement panel process. Canada took its objections of the Americans’ amended COOL law to the WTO compliance panel, which heard arguments in the case in February in Geneva, Switzerland. Masswohl says the real opportunity “we have reverts back to the WTO.”
A decision from the compliance panel will likely be released in late June but it can be appealed, he says.
“The whole point of the court case was if we could get an injunction from the (COOL) rule while we continue to wait for the WTO, that would have provided some relief to producers in the short term,” Masswohl says.
Stordy says the council has always been focused on the WTO panel and is continuing to work with the Canadian government on that process. The council is also working to lobby U.S. lawmakers to get them to implement a regulatory change and remove the discriminatory impact of COOL. BF