In the world of international diplomacy, it’s apparently more important to massage egos than to risk hurt feelings.

So a “dispute panel” appointed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) has decided to rule against the United States on country-of-origin labeling.  But Canada and Mexico cannot yet run around giving each other high fives, because the decision is supposed to remain secret for 30 days.

It’s unlikely, but the preliminary ruling also could change before being announced. The WTO body says COOL, as country-of-origin labeling has come to be known, violates the “Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade” by treating U.S. livestock and perishable commodities more favorably than livestock and the same commodities from Canada and Mexico.

If it is not reversed, the dispute panel’s decision will likely become final in the summer and be made public no later than this fall. That will leave the U.S. with a decision to make about whether to appeal or let Canada and Mexico whack away with trade sanctions.

COOL was a product of the U.S. Congress beginning in 2002 with its requirements found in the various Farm Bills adopted since then.  

“U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers support COOL because we want consumers to be able to support our U.S. cattle industry by differentiating and selecting U.S. grown  beef from growing volumes of imported beef souced from over a dozen foreign countries,” says Mike Schultz, chair of COOL committee for Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF).

R-CALF president Bill Bullard went further, saying an “un-elected, foreign tribunal” is attempting to strike down a constitutionally passed U.S. law.