Italy Joins Trump in Resisting Canadian Trade

The country’s new government argues that a trade pact with Canada doesn’t do enough to protect agricultural products.

Prime Ministers Giuseppe Conte of Italy and Justin Trudeau of Canada meet at the G7 summit in Charlevoix, June 8
Prime Ministers Giuseppe Conte of Italy and Justin Trudeau of Canada meet at the G7 summit in Charlevoix, June 8 (Flickr/Justin Trudeau)

Italy has learned from Donald Trump that Canada is now the enemy of the West.

In an interview with the newspaper La Stampa, the country’s new agriculture minister, Gian Marco Centinaio of the far-right League, said he would ask parliament not to ratify the trade agreement the EU negotiated with Canada in 2016.

Without ratification by all 28 member states, the treaty cannot go into effect for the entire European Union.

Protecting cheese

Centinaio argues that the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada does not sufficiently protect Italian products, such as Gorgonzola and Parmesan cheese.

Under EU law, a cheese can only be sold as “Gorgonzola” or “Parmesan” if it is produced in the region around Milan.

In CETA, Canada commits to respect 143 such geographical indications for high-quality European products.

For the last Italian government, that was enough. For the new coalition, between the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and nationalist League, it isn’t.

Leonardo Carella thinks this is a ruse. He points out that Italy exports three times more to Canada than it imports. This is “symbolic politics,” he writes. Both the Five Star Movement and League are ideologically opposed to free trade and sucking up to Donald Trump.

Unfair?

The American president berated Canada immediately after the G7 summit this weekend for its allegedly unfair trade practices, in particular its 249-percent tariff on dairy products.

However:

  • Those tariffs are coming down under the terms of the Trans Pacific Partnership, a ten-nation trade deal Trump pulled the United States out of;
  • Canada’s average import tariff is 3.1 percent, similar to America’s 2.4 percent and Europe’s 3 percent;
  • Some American tariffs are higher: 17 percent for dairy, 18 percent for Canadian lumber and 350 percent for tobacco;
  • The American government also subsidizes its farmers; and
  • Trump has just added tariffs for aluminum and steel.