Italy won’t ratify EU-Canada free-trade agreement
Agriculture Minister says pact doesn’t ensure sufficient protection for specialty foods
Italy will not ratify the European Union’s free-trade agreement with Canada, its new Agriculture Minister said on Thursday, ratcheting up an international trade spat and potentially scuppering the EU’s biggest accord in years.
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is the first major trade deal the European Union has signed since it began implementing its South Korea agreement in 2011.
All 28 EU member states must approve the agreement for it to take full effect.
In an interview with daily La Stampa, minister Gian Marco Centinaio said the Italian government would ask the parliament not to ratify the treaty since it does not ensure sufficient protection for the country’s speciality foods.
“We will not ratify the freetrade treaty with Canada because it protects only a small part of our PDO [Protected Designation of Origin] and PGI [Protected Geographical Indication] products,” Mr. Centinaio told the newspaper.
The European Commission said it was working closely with EU members to ensure that the trade accord was mutually beneficial.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters in Washington: “I’m confident we will have full ratification in the end, and the important thing is this agreement has entered into force as an economic matter.”
Of the 28 European Union countries, Italy has the most food products with PDO and PGI labels, including Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Prosciutto di Parma ham. Under CETA, Canada has recognized more than 40 Italian PDO and PGI labels out of a total of 292 for the food-obsessed country.
Coldiretti, the influential association of Italian agricultural companies, backed Mr. Centinaio’s intention, saying in a statement CETA was “wrong and risky” for Italy.
It said Italian food exports, equal to €41-billion ($62-billion) last year, could triple with a serious fight against international food counterfeiting.
The treaty entered into force on a provisional basis in September, 2017, sweeping away tariffs on a large number of goods and widening access to Canadian beef in Europe and EU cheese and wine in Canada.
A worker selects a wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano from a storage rack in Fidenza, Italy. Of the 28 EU countries, Italy has the most food products with special Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication labels.