Italy won’t rat­ify EU-Canada free-trade agree­ment

The Globe and Mail (BC Edition) - - REPORT ON BUSINESS - FRANCESCA LANDINI

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.

ALESSIA PIERDOMENICO/BLOOMBERG

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.

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