Federal agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay says Canada is considering appealing to the World Trade Organization Italy’s country-of-origin labelling rules on pasta and other products.
MacAulay told the Senate during its Question Period May 29 that he believes the policy violates trade rules under the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement.
Ontario senator Robert Black noted that since CETA came into effect, Canadian durum exports have dropped from about one million tonnes a year to zero due to a campaign against Canadian farmers by an Italian farmers’ union.
“I learned today that this same farmers’ union has now actively turned its sights to Canadian pulse exports, and they are using the same tactics that have worked for durum wheat,” Black said. “What is the government doing at present or planning to do to mitigate this issue?”
MacAulay replied that he is aware of the issue.
“I’m not a lawyer, but my understanding is they’re not following the EU trade deal regulations that were put in place,” he said.
“We’re evaluating whether we should make an appeal to the WTO or not. We’re also discussing the issue with the Italian officials.”
The regulations came into effect last summer, requiring mandatory labelling on all pasta and rice products made in Italy. There is also a consumer campaign against the use of glyphosate on grain that could eventually end up in Italian food products.
MacAulay said that in previous COOL disputes over livestock American ranchers became a great help and he hoped Italian processors would also demand quality Canadian durum for their products.
“We’re evaluating the legal process, whether we can and have the proper criteria to go forward,” he added.
“I mentioned it to the top officials with the EU, too, who are also concerned.”
Also during his Senate appearance MacAulay fielded questions about the federal carbon tax and transportation modernization.
He said farmers were widely consulted about the carbon tax.
“Have we consulted with every farmer in the country, I doubt it,” he said. “I might add that there’s nobody in the country more conscious of the environment, taking care of our soil, water and air, than farmers.”
Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen, from New Brunswick, said small farmers in that province are struggling and want to know what a tax will cost them.
“Last year, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada estimated that farmers in the West can expect to pay up to $3,700 more per year after the federal carbon tax comes into effect,” she said.
The minister didn’t offer a dollar figure in response to the question.