Yesterday, the Biden Administration, through the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), issued a scathing rebuke of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) recent ruling against the United States. The WTO ruled the U.S. violated international trade rules by requiring products from Hong Kong, China to be labeled as products of China. The U.S. imposed this labeling requirement in response to the People’s Republic of China’s action to erode Hong Kong, China’s autonomy and the democratic and human rights of its people, an action the USTR stated was a threat to the national security interests of the United States.
According to a statement by USTR spokesperson Adam Hodge, the U.S. strongly rejects the WTO’s ruling and does not intend to remove the labeling requirement; the WTO has no authority to second-guess the United States’ ability to respond to a threat to its security and will not cede its judgment over matters involving national security to the WTO; and the WTO is in need of fundamental reform.
“We fully agree with and appreciate the Biden Administration’s summary dismissal of the WTO’s authority to interfere with the United States’ sovereign right to protect its security interests,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard adding, “And we believe the WTO committed the same contemptuous overreach when it ruled against the United States’ ability to require a country of origin label (COOL) on imported beef.”
Bullard said the relevance of the WTO in today’s geopolitical environment “is finally being called into question at the highest levels of our government, and it’s happening frequently.” He pointed to a very similar rebuke against the WTO made earlier this month when the USTR expressed the ‘need to fundamentally reform the WTO dispute settlement system’ and stated, ‘The United States strongly rejects the flawed interpretation and conclusions’ of the WTO’s ruling against the U.S. on its imposition of Section 232 measures on steel and aluminum, an action the United States took to protect its steel and aluminum industries from unfair imports.
Bullard also pointed to another scathing rebuke of the WTO by the USTR this summer when the WTO was described as a ‘broken system that emboldens Members to litigate for the sake of litigation’ and, as now, the Biden Administration called for ‘meaningful WTO reform.’
“The overreach and misconduct of the WTO is the only reason Americans are deprived of COOL labels that would inform them of where their beef comes from,” Bullard said. “And this too is a national security issue as undifferentiated beef imports are threatening the economic viability of America’s cattle farms and ranches, which are among America’s most important food sources.”
Earlier this year, R-CALF USA issued white papers to Congress and the Administration. The first paper reinforces the appropriateness of USTR’s strong rejections of the WTO’s overreaching rulings and the second paper explains how Congress can reinstate mandatory COOL for beef through negotiation.
“We fully support USTR’s ongoing efforts to protect the United States’ critical interests and to meaningfully reform the WTO. We will continue urging both USTR and Congress to work together to swiftly enact mandatory COOL for beef,” Bullard concluded.