MacAulay, Stewart respond to Italian pasta COOL decree

Italy’s government signed a decree on Thursday requiring packages of pasta sold in the country include country of origin labels.

Italy is one of the largest markets for Canadian durum, importing around 1.2 million tonnes in 2015-16, according to Canadian Grain Commission figures.

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

Saskatchewan Ag Minister Lyle Stewart and his federal counterpart, Lawrence MacAulay, were asked about the situation following the federal-provincial-territorial ministers meeting in Newfoundland on Friday.

“We recognize Italy has moved past the EU process and they’re going directly to the World Trade Organization. Speeding up the process, from our perspective, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there are always risks with a (World Trade Organization) challenge,” said Stewart. “Even if it does come to a decision by the WTO, I think Canada will be in pretty good shape on this one.”

MacAulay noted his department is working with European Union officials “to make sure we have trade that continues to flow freely.”

“Of course it’s a great concern,” he said. “As you know we have a history of this issue and we certainly don’t like it.”

So is the Canadian government considering retaliation or other action?

“Not right at this point, but our officials are dealing with the issue,” said MacAulay. “It’s not the first time we’ve had to deal with an issue like this. We have some experience, and we will defend our growers. We will make sure that trade continues in an appropriate manner.”

Italian Ag Minister Martina tweeted this photo of himself signing the decree on COOL for pasta:

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