COOL Looms Again, This Time on Durum Exports to Italy

Canadian durum exports to the home of pasta are facing a potential political trade barrier.

Italy is moving toward implementing a mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) policy for pasta, similar to the COOL rules the U.S. imposed on beef and pork from 2008 to 2015.

The Italian government has drafted regulations that would require all pasta sold and processed in Italy include a label indicating where the durum originated and where the processing into semolina occurred.

The European Commission will ultimately have to grant its approval on whether it complies with EU obligations and laws, explains Cam Dahl, president of Cereals Canada, in the interview below.

“I’ll be blunt. It’s my view it does not, but we can’t really take any official action until that notification occurs,” he says.

There’s some worry the current political environment in Europe, post-Brexit, could potentially influence the European Commission’s decision, as the EU body may want to avoid upsetting a member state government and could be less likely to rule against a protectionist trade policy.

The policy is also linked to pressure from European activist groups opposed to technology used in modern agriculture, such as glyphosate use.

“It is a protectionist issue, and it’s also tied to the other initiatives that we’re seeing in Europe that are aimed at limiting modern agriculture practices,” says Dahl.

Canada is not only the largest supplier of durum in the world, but Canadian durum is also known for its quality, and is used by pasta-makers to improve colour and texture. “So it’s not surprising the Italian industry is concerned about this,” he notes.

The Canadian government, through the Market Access Secretariat, as well as the embassies in Rome and Brussels are all engaged in the file, says Dahl.

“From an ideal perspective, I hope Italy doesn’t take this final step and officially move forward,” he says. “But we can’t assume that that is going to happen, so we do have to prepare, whether that’s WTO action, or whether there are measures under the Canada-EU trade agreement. We have to prepare for that.”

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