Sunday, November 20, 2011

Reactions to COOL Panel Report

Media in the U.S and Canada have widely reported on the COOL Panel report of the WTO. The Wall Street Journal commented briefly on the Panel Report.

Canada wins a major victory in WTO country-of-origin case" thundered iPolitics, a news service based in Ottawa. The preparation that was undertaken by the various stakeholders in Canada was evident - "The Canadian Pork Council and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association co-ordinated with the Government of Canada to launch a WTO dispute in December 2008. The strong legal team, dedicated aggies and trade negotiators, supported by enthusiastic industry advisors, fought a lengthy, at times frustrating, two-year battle. The win was well worth the effort ."

Several local Associations in the US (Americal Meat Institute and the U.S. National Pork Producers Council)  have welcomed the decision against the United States law because of the costs it involved.

Dissenting voices have also been heard within the United States against the judgement. While the US Trade officials (Andrea Mead, spokeswoman for the USTR) remain determined to justify their legislation - “We remain committed to providing consumers with accurate and relevant information with respect to the origin of meat products that they buy at the retail level,” Mead said in a statement. “In that regard we are considering all options, including appealing the panel’s decision.”, several citizen/consumer gropus have criticised the panel Report as going against consumer interests. Public Citizen, a non-profit advocacy group based in Washington have been vociferous against the Panel report. In a Press release they have stated ,

"Today’s ruling makes very clear that these so-called ‘trade’ pacts have little to do with trade between countries and a lot to do with our major agribusiness corporations being free to sell mystery meat in the United States, with neither consumers nor our elected representatives in Congress able to ensure its safety, much less even know where it is from.” 

The debate about consumer interests (consumer information) vis a vis free trade, questioning of domestic policy domain in a globalised, multilateral trading regime seems to be the backdrop of this criticism.

An interesting study prior to the Panel report by Wendy A Johnecheck highlights the issue of the interpretation of WTO legal obligations in an economic perspective. 

"First, while WTO law is not necessarily in full agreement with the tenets of international trade theory, economics has had a strong influence on WTO law.  The number one rationale put forward for the creation of the WTO legal regime is an economic one relating to the liberalization of trade and pursuit of benefits described by the 90 theory of comparative advantage.  This perspective that trade is economically beneficial has been a large part of the impetus behind the international community’s agreement to establish a set of international obligations to discipline domestic measures that restrict trade. Thus, it seems appropriate to compare the likely results from the dispute settlement body’s interpretation of consumer information measures with results based on identifying globally welfare enhancing regulation.  The purpose of this exercise, however, is not to advocate for the use of an economic efficiency criterion for disciplining domestic regulation under given provisions of the WTO framework.  The author in fact views this approach to interpreting the WTO commitments as inappropriate given that it is not authorized by the WTO Treaty.  Member nations did not choose to operationalize the aim of liberalizing trade through prohibiting measures that are globally welfare reducing and that should be fully respected.  Instead, the aim of this comparison is to contribute to the discussion on the extent to which the treaty text and its associated adjudicative findings should stray from its theoretical underpinnings. As Lowenfield notes, ‘a good case can be made that most of the rules of international economic law have been developed against the backdrop of the theory of international trade, and of the question  - sometimes explicitly, at other times tacit – of how far deviations from the theory should be allowed.’

This relationship is also apparent in that dispute settlement bodies integrate economic theory into their legal reasoning.  In light of this backdrop, this section aims to make transparent the issues relevant to a discussion considering the extent that economic theory should inform the application of WTO law to consumer information measures. " 

This study makes interesting reading!


Anonymous said...

Have you got a link to the above study?


Srikar said...

The link ....

Hope this helps !