Italian farmers want to seize TTIP opportunity

Italy wants to safeguard its home-grown products by combating 'Italian sounding' goods. []

Representatives of Italian agriculture have expressed doubts over TTIP’s transparency – but have urged against “demonising” the agreement. EURACTIV Italy reports.

“Extreme, negative attitudes should not be supported,” said Vincenzo Lenucci, a representative of the Italian agricultural organisation Confagricoltura, in a meeting with the Italian government. While on the one hand, it is true that “the removal of tariff barriers will be of most benefit to American exporters rather than European ones,” it is also true that if, for example, “non-tariff barriers on apples and pears were removed, the Italian agricultural sector would benefit enormously”.

Enrico Fravili of Copagri dismissed “preconceived ideas” relating to the proposed free trade agreement. At the same time, there remain “concerns about health and environmental protection”, as well as persistent worries about GMOs. Fravili added that the biggest issue surrounding TTIP is the “lack of transparency”, which impedes the concerned parties’ ability to assess the impact of the proposal. The agricultural representative also said that more open negotiations would be better as then it would become clear whether “the enthusiasm about greater profits is all it’s cracked up to be”.

>>Read: TTIP elephants hiding behind ISDS

Stefano Masini, of Coldiretti, was in agreement with these concerns, underlining one of the key issues for Italian agriculturists: the matter of trademark protection and geographical indications. It is hoped that the agreement with Canada, in which 173 Italian products are listed out of 274 recognised typical indications, will not be repeated in TTIP, as “more than 100 trademarks have been omitted”.

The Slow Food movement was also represented at the meeting by its president, Gaetano Pascale, who shared his fears that “the economic benefits will only be reaped by those companies already set up to compete at the highest level. The small-scale, quality producer will be squeezed out.”

Latest round of negotiations

In the lastest round of negotiations held in Miami from 14 to 23 October, there was a chapter specifically dedicated to agriculture, as confirmed by a report published by the European Commission. The text outlines Brussels’ concerns about the US’ recent increase in export duties on butter and cream from the EU, questioning the timing and logic behind the move.

At the same time, EU representatives have emphasised the need to address the issue of non-tariff barriers on EU products on the American market, such as the ban on direct shipment of wine or discriminatory patterns that affect small European producers of wine and beer.

>>Read: Environmental and social protection to be discussed at next TTIP negotiations

The two parties also discussed the possibility of developing specific labelling regulations for spirits.

Knock-off dolce vita

The issues raised during the Italian meeting were also the focus of the mission to Washington by a delegation from the European Parliament to investigate aspects of TTIP.

“The American representatives showed great attention,” on the subject of food security and human and animal health, as well as “the importance of providing the consumer with correct information”, said Paolo De Castro of the Parliament’s Commission on Agriculture. One of the EU’s objectives of particular relevance to Italy is the marketing technique referred to as ‘Italian sounding’, where labelling and brand names are intended to evoke the themes associated with Italy, despite having nothing to do with the country, in order to better market a product.

>>Read: Parmesan remains on the menu

“In an agreement of this size, a labelling system must be agreed upon that prevents consumers from being provided with erroneous information or from being misled. We need to find a win-win solution, so that TTIP can be a real opportunity for economic and employment growth for the agricultural sector of Europe, and in particular, Italy,” said De Castro.

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