ROME—With the spotlight on the agreement of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), one of the few Italian manufacturing sectors in good health has been authorized to evaluate its pros and cons. The vast galaxy of the food and wine excellency asks for clarity, before the European Union will tie its economic fate to the United States.
According to the advisory group, the treaty, which is still being negotiated between Brussels and Washington DC, aims to “remove trade barriers in a wide range of economic sectors to facilitate the purchase and sale of goods and services between the EU and the US.” Promoters also speak of helping companies involved in saving millions of euros, plus creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. All this will create an economic stimulus: “our economy would get a boost of 0.5% of GDP, or €120 billion per year, once the agreement is fully implemented.”
It could be a great opportunity, considering that the US became Italy’s first commercial partner in 2013, especially in dealing with wine, olive oil, and all the cheeses. Coldiretti, the main Agricultural Trade Federation in Italy – data from its annual report – is aware of that, but at the same time it is asking to protect local producers from the phenomenon of Italian sounding. Almost 3 billion euros of Italian food and drinks reached the US. However, Coldiretti points out that worldwide the fake ‘Parmesan’ cheese, the ‘Chianti California’ wine, and phony ‘San Marzano’ tomatoes are causing damage, estimating a loss of at least 60 billion euros. Without any trade barriers, how could you tell the difference?
Phil Hogan, the newly appointed EU Commissioner for Agriculture, tried to ease the situation. At the end of October, he attended the International Forum organized by Coldiretti, during which he promised: “We will not sacrifice food quality [from European Union producers] only for the sake of trading”. It can be seen as an answer to worries expressed by Coldiretti President Robert Moncalvo, who has repeatedly called upon Brussels to introduce a new labeling legislation. Labels that should act to contrast-counterfeiting food, ensuring quality to customers, and then protecting organic productions.
Worries that are also present in political circles. The various European Agriculture Commissions gathered in Rome. It was the right time for Luca Sani, President of the Italian Agriculture Commission, to talk about TTIP. “The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,”said Sani according to Agenparl newsagency, “is undoubtedly an opportunity to consolidate the positive trend about Italian and European agri-food export […] However, it will require a strong negotiation commitment in support of the final agreement. This must meet European agricultural and food standards, protect consumers, and ensure equal conditions for farmers on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.”
The main opponents of the treaty in Italy are dozens of organitazions gathered under the ‘Stop TTIP Italy’ Committee. They consider it an agreement that eliminates tariffs and customs controls, and that will postpone the quality and safety measures in the production and distribution of goods. One of the main issues are the regulations of such GMOs, which are widespread in the US, while in Italy they are prohibited.
“One of the real dangers are the poor quality products and food from US corporations, such as vegetables and meat GMOs, or products pumped full of hormones and phytohormones. National laws and local communities won’t have any ways to oppose against them, since local laws and regulations will be subject to the TTIP,” said consumers’ association ADUSBEF in a press release, adding that the treaty will give more importance to the free flow of trading, rather than ensuring respect for local laws.
*Image of “US-EU deal” via Shutterstock