Chairman Roberts Moves to Protect U.S. Economy from $3.2 Billion in Trade Retaliation

Files Amendment to Repeal Country of Origin Labeling

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry today spoke on the Senate floor about his amendment to repeal mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) requirements for beef, pork and chicken – required by Canada and Mexico to prevent billions of dollars in retaliatory tariffs on the U.S. economy.

The amendment can be found Audio and video of Senator Roberts’ remarks can be downloaded here.

The most recent statement from Canada regarding COOL is here.

The following are Senator Roberts’ remarks as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, today we ask our fellow colleagues to stand with us to protect the U.S. economy from 3.2 billion dollars in retaliatory tariffs being applied to our exports to Canada and Mexico, every year. 

A recent ruling from the World Trade Organization found, for the fourth and final time, that our Country of Origin Labeling program for meat, or COOL to which it is often referred, violates our trade agreements with our two closest trading partners.  

Mr. President, this debate isn’t about the merits of a particular labeling program or our opinions about how our beef or pork or chicken should be sold.  No, this debate is about a simple fact, and facts are stubborn things.

Whether you support COOL or oppose COOL, the fact is retaliation is coming unless the Senate acts to stop this program that the WTO has found to be discriminatory.

Over the years, this body has attempted many times to craft a workable COOL program for all stakeholders while still living up to our international trade obligations.

Congress, through directives in the 2002 Farm Bill and the 2008 Farm Bill, required the establishment of COOL for meat.

Through regulations issued in 2009 and revised in 2013, the Department of Agriculture made several attempts to implement a workable and WTO compliant COOL program.

However, as I mentioned earlier, again and again the WTO ruled in favor of Canada and Mexico.  On four occasions our trade regulator ruled that the U.S. policy did not live up to our international trade obligations and disadvantaged our best trading partners, Canada and Mexico.

Some have suggested we should salvage this labeling program by once again making more changes.  However, simply changing certain aspects of the program will not prevent the 3.2 billion dollars in retaliation from damaging our economy.

Mr. President, you don’t have to take my word for it.  Here’s a statement, issued just today, from the Canadian governmentwhich will determine whether or not retaliation on U.S. products will take effect in the near future.

“’The only acceptable outcome remains for the United States to repeal COOL or face $3 billion in annual retaliation.’”

Mr. President, I have worked with many of my colleagues over the years and over the last few weeks to craft a solution that meets the needs of all stakeholders. 

However, after all of our work, it is clear that to protect our economy -- to ensure Canada and Mexico drop their pursuit of retaliation on U.S. exports -- we must firsttake up the House passed bill repealing COOL.  A bipartisan bill that received 300 votes. 

The damages Canada and Mexico are seeking are immense—over 3.2 billion dollars in sanctions on U.S. products is probable if we do not repeal COOL- - and these are not just agriculture products in the cross hairs.

Products including beef, pork, cherries, ethanol, wine, orange juice, jewelry, mattresses, furniture and parts for heating appliances are just some of the targets of Canadian retaliation. Mexico has yet to finalize their list, but we expect it to be just as damaging.

California alone has $4 billion in exports to Canada at risk.

Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin each have roughly $1 billion in exports from their state at risk from Canadian retaliation alone.

I remind my colleagues that again today, Canada released a statement in response to legislation authored by others that reaffirmed their position, and I quote:

“’The U.S. Senate must follow the lead of the House of Representatives and put forward legislation that repeals COOL once and for all.’”

I must emphasize to my colleagues that retaliation is fast approaching and the responsibility sits squarely on our shoulders to avoid it.

Regardless of what farm groups, the Department of Agriculture, or USTR say, or regardless of what some Members of Congress would like; Canada and Mexico, and only Canada and Mexico, have the ability to halt retaliation.

So this takes me back to the beginning of my statement…It doesn’t matter if you support COOL or oppose COOL, you cannot ignore the fact that retaliation is imminent and we must avoid it.

Repeal of mandatory COOL is necessary to protect the U.S. economy from damaging sanctions, and our amendment will accomplish just that.

Thank you, I urge my colleagues to adopt the amendment.

The U.S. Senate has debated COOL for nearly three decades. In what continues to be a divisive issue, Chairman Roberts has attempted to find a workable solution for all stakeholders that will also meet U.S. commitments to trading partners. However, the fact remains that Canada and Mexico have won their case at the World Trade Organization four times and soon will have the ability to impose potentially $3 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports every year.

The amendment was offered to the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act, commonly known as the highway bill. Co-sponsors include Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas; Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; John Boozman, R-Ark.; Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; David Perdue, R-Ga., James Risch, R-Idaho; Ben Sasse, R-Neb.; and Thom Tillis, R-N.C.

Chairman Roberts has opposed COOL from its inception. The Senate Agriculture Committee in June held a hearing on COOL and trade retaliation.


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