In June, The United States House of Representatives voted to repeal country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for beef, pork, and chicken and social media commentary regarding the move continues to dominate as an ongoing trending topic.  The reasons are obvious- consumers demand and expect knowledge as to the specific sourcing origins of food products. Consumers are right to be concerned and watchful, and the impact of these actions continue to impact food, beverage and consumer product goods focused supply chains.

The original COOL legislation had good intent, requiring meat products sold in supermarkets and grocery stores to specifically indicate where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.  Reports indicate that the original law was prompted by the lobbying of U.S. ranchers who compete with the Canadian cattle industry, and later garnered the interest of consumer watchdog interests.

But this current ongoing process now involves the political and economic implications of other supply chains, in addition to food.

The broader issue involves the World Trade Organization (WTO) which after the initial U.S. legislation was passed, ruled that the labels regarding animal origin would have a discriminatory impact against the two U.S. border countries, Canada and Mexico, and thus a barrier to free trade.  Both border countries indicate that the law requires that animals be segregated by country of origin, a costly process that has U.S. wholesale buyers avoiding the buying of export origin meat products.

Both countries are seeking permission to impose what is described as billions of dollars in added tariffs on U.S. goods in retaliation.  And there lies the supply chain impact which threatens to change the existing economics and stakeholder interests of cross-border trade.

U.S. legislators are thus caught in what is described as a damned if you do, or damned if you do not conundrum regarding the existing COOL repeal legislation which has now moved to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

In order to seek additional insights regarding the implications of COOL, Supply Chain Matters had the opportunity to recently speak with Candace Sider, vice-president of regulatory affairs, Canada, at international trade compliance services provider Livingston International. Ms. Sider has a significant background in understanding Canada’s regulatory processes involving interaction with federal and provincial officials, regulatory agencies and policymakers.

She explained that Canada viewed the original U.S. COOL labeling requirements as having a $3 billion impact on that country’s cattle and hog industry.  During the current arbitration period, decisions are expected to be made as to what commodities would remain on the original impacted list. If the surtax were to be implemented, importation from the U.S. of the subject products could ultimately passed on to consumers. The U.S. government has indicated to the WTO that it disputes Canada’s figures.  However, Canada is preparing to lift tariffs on U.S. imports that include in excess of 100 different commodities including products such as range and refrigerator parts, wine, and yes, chocolates.

The WTO is not expected to rule on the U.S.’s latest appeal to the threatened tariff increases until early August, or possibly September. Meanwhile, the implication of the ongoing dispute actually impacts more than just meat-focused supply chains.

Livingston is currently advising its clients to prepare for a number of potential scenarios involving the ongoing trade dispute process invoked by COOL.

Where all of this eventually ends-up is subject to many viewpoints.  After all, this is very much a process driven by economic, multi-industry and lobbyist forces.

However, one aspect is clear. The complexity of today’s globally based supply chains takes on many different dimensions and implications.  While you might have perceived that legislation affecting packaging disclosure of meat products has little to do with service parts, chocolates and wine, it indeed does. The takeaway is to nurture contacts and resources that can alert your team to ever changing developments and multi-industry implications.

Bob Ferrari