Consumer Safety Laws Going Down Because of Trade Deals

The obvious concern is that any consumer safety labeling law—perhaps especially, labeling of GMOs—could be targeted and overturned on the basis that it caused a barrier to trade.

Associated Press reports that the U.S. House Agriculture Committee has voted 38-6 to repeal a “country-of-origin” (COOL) labeling law for beef, pork and chicken— just two days after the World Trade Organization ruled against parts of the law. The labels tell consumers what countries the meat is from: for example, “born in Canada, raised and slaughtered in the United States” or “born, raised and slaughtered in the United States.”[i]

The WTO ruled Monday, May 18, that the U.S. labels put Canadian and Mexican livestock at a disadvantage, rejecting a U.S. appeal after a similar WTO decision last year.

The rapid roll-back on meat labeling under the popular consumer protection legislation known as COOL, fuels rising protests about granting Fast Track authority to the president to push through two mega-trade deals, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The obvious concern is that any consumer safety labeling law–perhaps especially labeling of GMOs—could be overturned on the basis that it caused a barrier to trade.

Americans are not alone in this concern. Europeans are equally worried that a trade deal could force a change to their labeling laws. Watch this 3 min. video by Jon Snow, Channel 4 News in the UK.

“The president says ‘we’re making stuff up,’ about trade deals undermining our consumer and environmental policies but today, we have the latest WTO [World Trade Organization] ruling against a popular U.S. consumer policy. Last week, Canadian officials announced that our financial regulations violate trade rules, and earlier this year, the Obama administration, in response to another trade agreement ruling, opened all U.S. roads to Mexico-domiciled trucks that threaten highway safety and the environment,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch[ii].

Public Citizen[iii], is a Washington DC-based nonprofit citizen’s interest watchdog and advocacy group that regularly blogs about issues related to trade and globalization.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is a specialized, autonomous, intergovernmental entity headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Established in 1995 the WTO transformed the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) into an enforceable global commerce code. Public Citizen names the WTO as “one of the main mechanisms of corporate globalization[iv].”

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