Canada considering options to challenge Italian COOL on pasta

Italy’s move to unilaterally impose country of origin labeling (COOL) rules for all packages of pasta sold in the country came as a surprise last week, leaving the Canadian government and durum supply chain exploring options for how they can challenge the measure that threatens Canadian durum wheat exports.

Rather than waiting for the European Commission’s comment period to end on August 12, Italy’s industry and agriculture ministers ignored the EU approval process and forged ahead with signing the decree on July 20th, says Cam Dahl, president of Cereals Canada.

“We are putting Italy in the vanguard of Europe when it comes to labeling as a competitive tool for the Italian (agriculture) sector,” Italy’s Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina said bluntly in a statement reported by Reuters.

“They’re moving outside of the framework of the European Union and without comment or approval from the European Commission. That was unexpected, and so we’re looking at what our options are at this point,” Dahl explains in the interview below.

Italy is one of the two largest export markets for Canadian durum (along with North Africa), accounting for more than 20 percent of exports in recent years. As the largest exporter of durum to Italy, the Canadian industry and government have been closely following the Italian government’s labeling proposal.

“We were expecting the European Commission to tell Italy what they were proposing was contrary to the regulations oft he European Union, which is perhaps why they have chosen to say ‘we don’t care what the European Union thinks. We’re going to go ahead on our own,'” says Dahl.

Within the EU, Italy could face infringement proceedings in court, which would likely take years to reach a final ruling, he says.

“Are there legal options together with the Italian industry that we could pursue to have an injunction put in place? I don’t know if that’s possible, but that’s something we’re looking at. Of course we’re also looking at the World Trade Organization, but this took eight years to get through for the meat sector,” says Dahl, referring to Canada and Mexico’s WTO dispute with the U.S. over meat labeling.

Dahl joined us on RealAg Radio on Wednesday to discuss the options Canada is considering, who is behind the push for labeling in Italy, and the impact it could have on Canadian durum producers:

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Kelvin Heppner

Kelvin Heppner is a field editor and radio host for RealAgriculture and RealAg Radio. He's been reporting on agriculture on the prairies and across Canada since 2008(ish). He farms with his family near Altona, Manitoba, and is on Twitter at @realag_kelvin. @realag_kelvin

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