Claims that trade pacts like the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will not trump public health and environmental policies were revealed to be fiction on Tuesday after Congress, bending to the will of the World Trade Organization, killed the popular country-of-origin label (COOL) law.
The provision, tucked inside the omnibus budget agreement, repeals a law that required labels for certain packaged meats, which food safety and consumer groups have said is essential for consumer choice and animal welfare, as well as environmental and public health.
Congress successful revoked the mandate just over one week after the WTO ruled that the U.S. could be forced to pay $1 billion annually to its NAFTA partners, which argued that the law "accorded unfavorable treatment to Canadian and Mexican livestock."
Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division, said that consumers relied on the standard to "make informed choices about their food," and that Congress' elimination of the rule "makes clear that trade agreements can—and do—threaten even the most favored U.S. consumer protections."
The move flies in the face of statements made by President Barack Obama, who—arguing in favor of the 12-nation TPP, pledged that "no trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws."
Indeed, Wallach argues that repealing the COOL law might prove to be a "real problem for administration efforts to pass the [TPP}–which faces opposition from an unprecedentedly diverse coalition of organizations and members of Congress—because claims that trade pacts cannot harm U.S. consumer and environmental policies have been a mainstay of their campaign."