Canada faces new trade test from Italy

New pop­ulist gov­ern­ment won’t rat­ify the Canada-Eu­ro­pean Union free trade ac­cord

Cape Breton Post - - CANADA -

Add Italy to the grow­ing list of Canada’s trade headaches.

Italy’s Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Gian Marco Centi­naio re­port­edly said Thursday that his coun­try’s new pop­ulist gov­ern­ment won’t rat­ify the Canada-Eu­ro­pean Union free trade ac­cord. He in­sisted he’s also heard doubts about the 28-coun­try deal from many of his Eu­ro­pean col­leagues.

The development adds to Canada’s sig­nif­i­cant trade chal­lenges — which al­ready in­clude deep un­cer­tainty sur­round­ing the fu­ture of the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment and hefty steel and alu­minium tar­iffs im­posed re­cently by the United States.

For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrystia Freeland, in Wash­ing­ton on Thursday to try to jump start stalled NAFTA ne­go­ti­a­tions, told re­porters she’s con­fi­dent Italy will even­tu­ally sign on to the Com­pre­hen­sive Eco­nomic Trade Agree­ment, or CETA.

Freeland noted that Aus­tria was ini­tially re­luc­tant to rat­ify CETA, but even­tu­ally came around. And she pre­dicted Italy will do the same.

“I’m con­fi­dent we will have full rat­i­fi­ca­tion at the end,’’ said Freeland, who added she had a “good’’ con­ver­sa­tion about CETA with Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Giuseppe Conte dur­ing last week­end’s G7 sum­mit in Que­bec.

On a pro­vi­sional ba­sis, 98 per cent of CETA went into ef­fect across the E.U. last Septem­ber. The deal was set­tled in 2016 af­ter more than seven years of talks — but all E.U. na­tions must now vote on it in­de­pen­dently.

Canada’s in­ter­na­tional trade min­is­ter, Francois-Philippe Cham­pagne, vis­ited Italy a few days ago to sell the mer­its of CETA to the new Ital­ian gov­ern­ment, which took power on June 1, his spokesman said.

Ahead of the G7 sum­mit, Conte fu­elled dishar­mony within the G7 by tweet­ing his sup­port for U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s con­tentious call for Rus­sia to be in­vited to re­join the al­liance, four years af­ter it was ex­pelled for an­nex­ing Ukraine’s Crimea.

Conte, who heads a right-wing party, made his in­ter­na­tional de­but at the G7 af­ter he was re­cently ap­pointed prime min­is­ter as a com­pro­mise can­di­date to break a po­lit­i­cal dead­lock in place since Italy’s March na­tional elec­tion.

Closer to home, Freeland was one of sev­eral fed­eral cab­i­net min­is­ters to reach out to their Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts this week in an ef­fort to ad­vance NAFTA talks and to per­suade the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to back down from the steel and alu­minum tar­iffs.

CP PHOTO

Min­is­ter of For­eign Af­fairs Chrystia Freeland ar­rives for a meet­ing with On­tario Premier-des­ig­nate Doug Ford in Toronto, on Thursday.

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