CETA proving hard to ratify in Europe

If Canada hadn’t already negotiated the CETA trade deal with the European Union, would we make such an attempt to do so today? Certainly, there would be skepticism.

It took seven years and a lot of high-level energy to get the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement negotiated.

The deal reduces 98 percent of the tariffs in the two jurisdictions.

Canada is the EU’s 10th largest trading partner, accounting for two percent of the EU’s total trade. The EU is Canada’s second largest, representing 9.6 percent of Canada’s total trade. It’s estimated that CETA has the potential to boost Canada’s income by up to $12 billion annually.

But getting CETA through the EU is now becoming more than a herculean effort — it’s one that might require the intervention of the strongman’s Greek father, Zeus, himself.

Recall when CETA was first negotiated, the region of Wallonia in Belgium almost scuttled it. (Trade deals with the EU must be approved by all 28 countries, but Belgium requires approval of its five regions.) Wallonia’s objection to the power of multi-nationals under the deal almost brought CETA crashing down.

Now, Italy is at it.

While most of the provisions of CETA took effect last September — removing tariffs on goods and Canadian beef in Europe and EU cheese and wine in Canada — the deal has so far been ratified by only nine EU states.

Meanwhile, Italy has elected the protectionist 5-Star movement, which wants to subject 292 domestic foods, such has hard cheese, to special protection under the deal. (Canada recognizes about 40 of them.)

In fact, Italy has been at this for a while, having introduced country-of-origin labelling on imported durum, slowing Canadian exports to Italy. Some Italian organizations have even taken to calling Canadian durum poisoned because of farmers’ use of glyphosate. Some shipments have been interrupted.

The Canadian government is considering launching a formal challenge to COOL in Italy. Meanwhile, officials here have been quietly confident that Italy will back down on CETA.

Perhaps that’s because since most of it went into effect in September, Italian exports of goods to Canada have increased by 2.1 percent and animal and food exports have increased by 11.9 percent.

It looks like Canada is banking on the proof in the proverbial pudding.

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