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Could feta defeat CETA?

feta cheeseThe Syriza government in Greece is reportedly threatening to vote against the ratification of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) over the issue of feta cheese. Some 300,000 Greek livestock farmers earn their income from feta and Syriza argues that CETA undermines their livelihoods.

EU Trade Insight reports, “The upcoming 7 May Trade Council taking place in Brussels could see Athens making a few waves as it is intent on threatening to vote against the conclusion and signature of [CETA] if feta cheese is not properly protected as a geographical indication. The issue of feta cheese and Greece’s reservations will be discussed under the ‘any other business’ section of Thursday’s Trade Council.”

We don’t have news from today’s meeting yet, but here’s the context behind this issue.

Greece says, “Feta cheese has been unfairly singled out [in CETA] as it has been granted the least protection.”

The article explains, “Under the draft text of the CETA, Canada agreed to the protection of certain European geographical indications. Prosciutto di Parma for example would be protected in Canada once the deal enters into force. …When it comes to feta cheese, Canada has been arguing this is a generic name. And under the terms of the CETA agreed to by the EU Executive, the name feta can be used in Canada ‘by any person, including their successors and assignees, who made commercial use of those indications … preceding the date of 18 October 2013. New producers would have to accompany the name of the cheese by expressions such as kind, type, imitation, or style.”

This disagreement extends back to December 2013.

At that time, before Syriza had formed the government in Greece, the BBC reported, “The leftist Syriza bloc, the main opposition group, rejects the EU-Canada deal. ‘A Syriza-led government will veto the agreement’, says Thanassis Petrakos, a Syriza MP.” That’s because, “The new deal means not only the removal of import tariffs but also additional safeguards for Greek feta.” And that’s a significant issue because, “The feta industry accounts for more than 70 per cent of Greek cheese exports and – unlike much of the struggling Greek economy – it is expanding.”

After Syriza was elected in January, George Katrougalos, the Deputy Minister for Administrative Reform, stated, “I can assure you that a Parliament where Syriza holds the majority will never ratify the [United States-European Union Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership] deal. And this will be a big gift not only to the Greek people but to all the European people.”

Within weeks, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow wrote Katrougalos a letter asking him to also veto CETA.

It is anticipated that ratification votes on CETA could begin in EU national legislatures in January 2016 and in the European Parliament in April 2016.

For more on our campaign to defeat CETA, please click here.