Canada faces new trade test from Italy
New populist government won’t ratify the Canada-European Union free trade accord
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.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland arrives for a meeting with Ontario Premier-designate Doug Ford in Toronto, on Thursday.