Allegrini 2018

Ireland’s “Health Warnings” to the WTO: politicians and the Italian wine supply chain’s reactions

Minister Lollobrigida on social media, “Wine seriously damages the health of those who do not drink it”. Federvini: “an International coalition is needed”
Minister Lollobrigida on social media: “wine seriously damages the health of those who do not drink it”

The Italian wine supply chain does not fear the direct economic damage, which would be almost negligible, since Italian wine on the Irish market represented 40 million euros out of 7 billion euros in total exports (and Italy accounted for almost 10% in volume of the wine imported into the Country), as much as the indirect economic damage. Because, if the Irish government goes all the way, as it has every intention of doing, and inserts “Health Warnings” on all alcohol beverage labels, the risk is that other European Countries, as well as those outside of Europe, could follow the same path, and there would be repercussions on consumption and on legislation linked to financing, promotion, and so on. After the Irish Government presented the draft regulation on the subject to the WTO, however, reactions from Italian politicians and wine organizations were almost immediate.
The Minister of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty posted an ironic quip (it is Carnival time and in Italy the saying is, “At Carnival time, anything goes!”), complete with photos, on social media, and a label mimicking the “Health Warnings”. “Wine is seriously harmful to the health of those who don't drink it”, the Minister “chirped” on Twitter, emphasizing also, “I will submit a mediation to Ireland that can help them make their label clearer, and above all guarantee correct information. We must fight against excesses and abuses, while moderate use guarantees, as science has confirmed, well-being. #sdramatizziamo #difendiamolaqualità (take the edge off, defend quality)”.
Coldiretti, the farmers organization led by Ettore Prandini, stated, “Ireland’s blitz on alarmist wine labels must be stopped, in order to defend one of our Country’s symbolic products, which is also the worl’s leading producer and exporter, generating over 14 billion euros in turnover and employing, from field to table, 1.3 million people”. The federation of wine industries, Federvini, recalled that, “starting today there is a 90 day time limit within which any member Country of the World Trade Organization can present opposing opinions”, and called for creating a “coalition of Countries against any sort of discrimination of alcoholic beverages”. “Now is the time for International partners at the WTO level to raise their concerns about Ireland’s proposal, which represents an evident obstacle to International trade. Will Ireland listen to them or once again turn a deaf ear as it did to comments from EU partners? We are appealing to the Italian Government. We led the battle in Europe, and at this time, we invite the Meloni Government to do the same at the WTO level, creating a coalition of Countries in support of our positions”, Micaela Pallini president of Federvini said. Further, she noted, “Ireland’s proposal is based on a demonizing approach to alcoholic beverages, and the health indications do not distinguish between moderate consumption and abuse. It is, therefore, no coincidence that this proposal, recently presented to the European Commission, received contrary opinions from 13 Member States - Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain. “Unfortunately”, Pallini continued, “the European Commission’s inaction has created a green light for the Irish legislation, which last obstacle is only overcoming reservations of the organization that manages world trade. Ireland has decided not to modify a single comma of the draft as presented to the WTO, in spite of strong opposition from many countries. At this point, we do have serious doubts about the Commission’s willingness, while very little can be done in the absence of concrete actions. We believe that only the European Union Court of Justice is able to defend the European Union in this phase”, Pallini concluded, reiterating CEEV’s position, of which Federvini (Unione Italiana Vini - Uiv) is a member.
The vice president of the Senate of the Republic and former Minister of Agricultural Policies, Gianmarco Centinaio, also commented, “Ireland has taken its steps, and now it's our turn. The Government in Dublin has presented its alarmist labels to the World Trade Organization (WTO), and it is time for the countries that have already declared their opposition to unite and present a formal opposition within the three month time limit. Italy is the only Country that could lead this coalition. It is sad to have to note that once again, Europe has not been capable of defending its quality products nor the free domestic market, which even Ireland has admitted these labels would violate. We cannot accept this unfair competition against our wine producers. It would definitely set a very disquieting precedent. Faced with the inaction of Brussels' silent assent, all that we can do is continue our battle elsewhere, but not, of course, abandon the European one”, Centinaio concluded.
In point of fact, Paolo De Castro, member of the Democratic Party of the Agriculture and Rural Development Commission of the European Parliament, said, “the battle will now move to Geneva (headquarters of the WTO, ed.), where we will have to find allies at the International level, starting with the United States. And, this is the reason”, De Castro continued, “that we are in contact with the US mission in Brussels, so that Washington will also be able to raise objections at the WTO. We are not giving up, and we will continue to work to counteract a law that is not only wrong and discriminatory against thousands of excellent Italian and European producers, but which also represents a commercial barrier at the International level”.

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