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Right-wing Italian coalition government opposes ratification of Canada-EU CETA

A new Italian coalition government was formed under Giuseppe Conte on June 1 following months of negotiations after the March 4 election.

The Five Star Movement-League coalition is considered to have a thin majority (347 seats in the 630 seat legislature), but it is also supported by the far-right Brothers of Italy party (which has 32 seats).

Reuters now reports, “Italy will not ratify the European Union’s free trade agreement with Canada… Agriculture Minister Gian Marco Centinaio said the Italian government would ask the parliament not to ratify the treaty since it does not ensure sufficient protection for the country’s specialty foods.”

The article highlights the significance of this when it notes, “All 28 EU member states must approve the agreement for it to take full effect.”

CNBC adds, “Italy saying it will not ratify the [Canada-EU ‘free trade’] deal represents another stumbling block for fragile relations between Europe and the new euroskeptic and renegade government in Italy. It has already clashed with Europe over spending plans, immigration and the single currency.”

And the Canadian Press now reports, “‘I’m confident we will have full ratification at the end’, said [Foreign Affairs minister Chrystia] Freeland, who added she had a ‘good’ conversation about CETA with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during last weekend’s G7 summit in Quebec. …Canada’s international trade minister, Francois-Philippe Champagne, visited Italy a few days ago to sell the merits of CETA to the new Italian government, which took power on June 1, his spokesman said.”

The Italian government is a coalition between the “anti-establishment” Five Star Movement (with 222 seats) and the “far-right” League (with 125 seats). Last year, the Financial Times reported that opposing free trade deals was the top foreign policy priority for the Five Star Movement. The agriculture minister noted in today’s Reuters news article who is opposed to ratifying CETA is a member of the League party.

Reuters notes, “The government programme that forms the basis of the League-5-Star coalition mentioned CETA, saying the executive would oppose ‘the aspects [of the treaty] that imply an excessive weakening of the protection of citizens’ rights.'”

The Guardian has also reported the coalition government’s joint policy document contains “plans to build more detention centres to accelerate the deportation of an estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants and review migrant rescue missions at sea after they arrive on Italy’s shores. The agreement also calls for a renegotiation of the Dublin refugee treaty, and for ‘unregistered’ Roma camps to be shut down.”

Given the Brexit vote, Italy is now considered the third largest economy in the European Union behind Germany and France.