The World Trade Organization (WTO) has reportedly issued a preliminary ruling that U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) laws violate the organization’s Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. According to Feedstuffs, a WTO panel found that COOL “constitutes an illegal, non-tariff trade barrier that treats U.S. livestock and perishable commodities more favorably than livestock, fruits and vegetables and other covered commodities from Canada and Mexico.” The preliminary ruling will remain confidential for 30 days with a final version slated for release in September 2011, when the United States will have two months to appeal. See Feedstuffs, May 25, 2011.

News of the preliminary ruling has since elicited a favorable reaction from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), which described the decision as “unfortunate for the U.S. government” but a positive development for industry. As NCBA President Bill Donald explained, “Proponents of COOL have always believed that restricting imports of Mexican and/or Canadian feeder cattle will decrease the supply of feeder cattle in the United States and increase the price of U.S. origin feeder cattle. In reality, reducing the number of cattle in the marketplace also reduces the infrastructure of the U.S. beef industry.” See NCBA Press Release, May 26, 2011.