From Feta to Parmesan, cheese has been a central issue in CETA, the trade agreement between the European Union and Canada, and now it is possible that it might kill the deal.
Today, Reuters reports that the 5-Star, Liga Nord Italian coalition government reiterated that not only would it not ratify CETA, but that it would remove any official who promotes the agreement.
“If so much as one Italian official … continues to defend treaties like CETA, they will be removed,’ said 5-Star Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio.
In order for CETA to be permanently adopted, it would require that all 28 states adopt the bill. Already, there are plans for a referendum in the Netherlands. Germany’s lower house has CETA opponents in its majority, and Belgium, and Wallonia has are likely not to adopt it. This is in addition to other countries like Slovenia and Hungary where there has been opposition.
In addition, Belgium has brought CETA to the European Court of Justice asking for an opinion on whether it is compatible with the EU constitution. Already, the court has ruled that other treaties with investor rights protections are not compatible with EU law. As a result, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen has said he will not sign CETA on behalf of Austria until the court decision.
Italians are very concerned about what it will do to their agricultural traditions, in particular, their geographical indicators such as Parmiaginao Reggiano and Proscuito di Pama ham which are not protected by the treaty. Geographical indicators are meant to protect regional and ancestral food development traditions, making sure that they continue to be exploited and made by the people who created them in the traditional ways.
Canada has asked that no geographical indicators be protected in the treaty. There are approximately 286 Italian geographic indicators which are not protected.
Canadian farmers, too, have been critical of CETA, saying that it undermines the supply management system which protects their livelihoods. Importing 17,000 tonnes of cheese undermines the system which ensures that there isn’t overproduction, and that all farmers make a decent living. Farm groups such as the National Farmer’s Union, the Union des Producteurs Agricoles, and Union Paysanne have been critical of how the agreement affects the dairy industry.
And it is artisan cheesemakers that are upset. In La Terre Chez Nous, Nancy Portelance from Plaisirs Gourmets says, “We were sacrified in this deal.”
Daneil Allard from Fromages CDA says, “Now our biggest clients have the right to import European cheese. There is 72 feed of counter space and it is not getting larger. It shrinks our space. It will be a tough game.”
In CETA, local, family farms will see themselves more and more squeezed by large multinationals, which will eventually affect us, the consumer’s ability to get local, fresh, healthy food.
In 2016, we first sounded the alarm in Europe on food security in the treaty, by producing a multilingual report, Europe: CETA puts your Food Safety at Risk and touring Europe with the Washington-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.