By Susie Chasnoff in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
On Dec. 7, the World Trade Organization ruled against the U.S. in a challenge from Mexico and Canada regarding our Country of Origin Labeling law. This challenge was made possible through the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The ruling specified that the U.S. faces $1 billion in trade sanctions annually until it repeals or significantly weakens COOL.
COOL is a consumer protection law that informs us where the beef and pork we eat are born, raised and slaughtered. The ruling forces us to either abandon this consumer protection or face exorbitant trade sanctions.
It is of great significance that the WTO arbitration tribunals are heavily weighted to favor corporations. Tribunal judges and lawyers come from a corporate background. Mexico and Canada were representing their meat industries in this suit. Large-scale U.S. ranchers also want to see the repeal of COOL.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the most current “free trade” agreement looming in our very near future. The TPP would strengthen these arbitration panels by elevating corporations to nationhood status, allowing them to directly sue a signatory government. Challenges would be made on the basis that a law, policy or regulation is a “barrier to trade” causing “potential loss of profit.” This, despite the fact that President Obama insists trade treaties will not change U.S. law.
It is vitally important that Americans educate themselves to the fact that the TPP and other upcoming trade treaties represent a threat to our democratic way of life.
Susie Chasnoff • University City