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Commentary. Five thousand European municipalities and regions opposed the E.U.-Canada Free Trade Agreement.

Rome joins European cities revolting against E.U.-Canada treaty

Rome has declared itself, with the almost unanimous vote of the Capitoline Assembly, to be among the approximately 5,000 European cities and regions “CETA-free.” The E.U.-Canada Comprehensive and Economic Trade agreement was anathema to a movement that opposes wild trade liberalization and the treaty’s provisional entry into force.

“Good news, because it abolishes 99 percent of Canadian customs tariffs with spikes in some of our top export sectors,” claims the Minister of Economic Development Carlo Calenda.

It is a shame that his voice gets lost in a chorus of controversy, starting with CGIL Secretary Susanna Camusso, who instead asked the senate, which has been summoned to ratify the treaty on Sept. 26, to stop “and to promote the necessary insights, wait for the verification of the temporary activity which we are sure will point out that it is necessary to refuse this agreement, in order to achieve an egalitarian and equitable trade.”

Before CETA can begin, it must be approved by both houses in all the parliaments of the European Union. The so-called movements — regional interests and alternative parties — have been able to demonstrate that it is a mixed treaty: that is, it includes trade measures decided by Europe, but also standards and rules that affect the environment, health, work, quality of products and services that can not be addressed without the approval of the national parliaments.

CETA, in fact, requires setting up around 20 Euro-Canadian committees, whose members will be selected without any involvement of citizens. Companies on both sides of the Atlantic will be able to intervene autonomously by introducing changes in the production, distribution and design of goods and services in order to make them easier to trade. If, in order to achieve this, they go against the environment or our rights, it doesn’t matter, as explained by a report curated by Greenpeace, along with the U.S.-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, which points out that “European standards are under attack.”

If CETA were to come into full force, the introduction of the arbitration resolution system (the Investment Court System or ICS) would allow investors to sue those states whose rules, in their view, are unjustifiably restrictive to trade. For example, large corporations would be able to challenge the E.U. and the member states in court for attempts to expand the rules on origin labeling.

This could have an effect on Italian pasta. Canada exports large amounts of wheat to Italy, which is then turned into pasta. The president of Cereals Canada, Cam Dahl, has made it clear that legal actions could be brought even before Italy starts the origin labeling for pasta, saying he hoped that “Italy would not take this step. But without knowing, we must be prepared, both for action within the WTO and for measures under the Canada-EU Trade Agreement.” With the start of CETA, initiatives such as this could be pursued permanently, both at E.U. and member state level.

It is no coincidence that Coldiretti, the largest agricultural trade association, together with the three consumer associations Adusbef, Federconsumatori and the Consumers Movement, are among the main opponents of CETA: “It is a gift to the big industrial food lobbyists that affects the true ‘Made in Italy’ brand and favors relocation, with heavy impact on the issue of transparency and health and the environment,” said the Italian producers bluntly.

And along with the Italian Campaign Stop TTIP and the other organizations, it is committed to putting pressure on writing and reaching out to all Italian senators on Twitter and Facebook and ask them to make a wider analysis, not a dull drop-by-drop legislation. We need to make a responsible decision on what kind of trade is more suitable to defend our rights, the environment and the legitimate interests of corporations and citizens.

Monica Di Sisto is spokeswoman for the Italian campaign Stop TTIP. Find how to participate in initiatives to put pressure on the Italian Parliament at www.stop-ttip-italia.net.

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