An international trade deal years in the making now appears to hinge upon the government of the newly chosen Prime Minister of Italy. The News Blender covered the circumstances of Giuseppe Conte’s rise to that position (story here). In that article, it was explained that the Conte was chosen as a compromise candidate between the two parties who had garnered the most votes in Italy’s recent election and that the leaders of those two parties had assumed positions as influential ministers in Conte’s cabinet.
One of those ministers is flexing his newfound political muscle. The Local, an English-available site for Italian news, covered an interview given to one of the national magazines:
In an interview published in Italian daily La Stampa on Thursday, Agriculture Minister Gian Marco Centinaio said: “We will not ratify the free-trade agreement with Canada because it only protects a small part of our protected designation of origin (PDO) and protected geographical indication (PGI) produce.”
He added: “We will ask parliament not to ratify this treaty or others similar to CETA.”
The accord would eliminate 98% of the tariffs between the EU and Canada. It was signed in 2016, including by Italy, but has yet to be ratified. If any member nation of the European Union does not ratify the treaty, it will not be implemented. (CBC)
Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs responded quickly: (Financial Post)
Chrystia Freeland, in Washington to try to jump start stalled NAFTA negotiations, says she’s confident Italy will eventually sign on to the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, or CETA.
Freeland reminded reporters that Austria had balked at the trade agreement in 2016, but had modified its position after explanatory talks. (Reuters)
It is not just the single party in the ruling coalition of Italy that opposes the deal, however. From the Financial Times:
[The new Italian government] will oppose aspects [of trade deals] that would involve an excessive weakening of citizens’ rights, and inflict damage on fair and sustainable competition in the internal market. – Joint policy statement of League and Five Star
Canadian officials ranging from Trudeau to lower-tier but experienced ministers have been visiting Italy in recent months, and Trudeau’s direct interactions with Conte at the G-7 focused primarily on trade. Ultimately, at the G-7 Conte stood with the EU and Canada against the policy suggestions of U.S. President Trump, but he appeared to do so reluctantly. The European Union leaders are now watching to see whether Conte’s government will again move reluctantly toward free trade, or whether it will firmly embrace the protectionism some of his Ministers campaigned on.