Not much is really known about the appeal that went public the Friday after Thanksgiving over the controversial U.S. country-of-origin meat labeling scheme — often called COOL — which has repeatedly been found in violation of free trade agreements by the World Trade Organization (WTO). News that the U.S. was appealing the ruling within the allotted 60-day appeal period came not from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in the White House or even the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but from the WTO itself, which indicated it would publish the appeal documents on its own in the next few days. While no details have yet been released, WTO says that appeals have to be based on points of law, such as legal interpretation; they cannot reopen factual findings made by the decision-making panel. Filing over its third loss on the COOL issue does mean the U.S. puts off for a little longer the time when its economy might be forced to pay punitive tariffs on some of the $52 billion in sales Americans make to Canada. Canada’s Minister of International Trade, Ed Fast, and Gerry Ritz, Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, responded to the U.S. appeal with a promise to keep retaliation on the table. Their joint statement stated, “Canada is deeply disappointed with the U.S. decision to appeal the WTO ruling on COOL. Canada fully expected the United States to live up to its international trade obligations and comply with the WTO ruling, which reaffirms Canada’s long-standing view that the revised U.S. COOL measure is blatantly protectionist and fails to comply with the WTO’s original ruling against it. “We are confident that the WTO Appellate Body in the compliance process will uphold the principal finding of the report: that the amended U.S. COOL measure discriminates against Canadian livestock. That finding marks another clear victory for Canada and recognizes the integrated nature of the North American supply chain.” The dispute, as outlined in previous WTO filings, has nothing to do with food safety and not even much to do with labeling meat. Canada (and Mexico) have persuaded WTO that COOL is a non-tariff trade barrier designed to make the big U.S. meat processors segregate foreign livestock facilities and thereby make it more costly to handle beef and swine born or raised in Canada. Lower livestock demand and higher handling costs are costing Canada more than $1 billion a year. After WTO again ruled against the U.S., the U.S. Department of Agriculture determined there is no regulatory fix that can square fair trade obligations under existing treaties and the labeling law as written. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said that either Canada and Mexico need to be more clear on what will satisfy them or Congress needs to change the law “to comport with the WTO ruling to prevent whatever potential retaliation may occur.” Vilsack was also on the record saying that there would be no decision on an appeal until January. Unless the U.S. backs down, Ritz has made it clear that Canada will impose the punitive tariffs that WTO will then permit to even the playing field. Then the dispute ceases to be an obscure controversy about meat labeling since Canada will be able to apply financial pressure to any of the $52.1-billion worth of U.S. products being purchased north of the border. And Ritz already has a list, including California wines, Vermont maple syrups, Washington and Michigan apples, and various pasta, breads, corn, cherries, and more, including furniture and mattresses. Applying tariffs as punishment means that American products would be more costly in Canada, theoretically cutting demand.