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Scalfarotto: CETA, entrepreneurs have already encouraged it (Il Sole 24 ORE)

More than two years after the start of the provisional implementation of CETA, I can only rejoice that the figures of trade exchange – that are so positive for Italy – have gradually smoothed the positions of those who presented CETA as a threat to our economy, to our health and to environment until September 2019. At last CETA seems to come out of an irrational and a little conspirant narrative in which it had been entangled and eventually begins to be considered without prejudice, as it happens for all other free trade agreements (South Korea, Japan, etc.).The last two years’ statistical evidence leaves little room for doubt: exports increased by more than 560 million for all sectors (including agri-food), an increase in the positive balance of our trade by 470 million, benefits especially for SMEs thanks to unified standards, etc. Therefore, the increasingly meagre anti-CETA party has ended up more or less tight-lipped recognizing the objective advantages for our companies, trying to keep the point with some limited objections. For instance, I once heard talking about insufficient protection of geographical indications of origin. From the substantial far west situation that preceded CETA, today there are 172 European PDO and PGI protected designations. For Italy there are more than 40 designations, representing more than 95% of PDO and PGI exports to Canada. Before CETA there was no protection for any of these ligs and it is useful to remember that this is a growing list with 5 more recently added Italian ligs. Another objection raised is related to the alleged international arbitration mechanism for dispute resolution (Investor-state dispute settlement, ISDS). In this respect, it should be recalled that, in extremis, the Commission has requested and obtained from Canada the introduction of a new International Court System (ICS) based on a dual international court composed of independent judges appointed by the EU and by Canada. As all the Italian companies I met in Canada confirmed to me, this is first of all a residual system (the most important contracts already include arbitration clauses) and, moreover, once in force after CETA final ratification, the ICS will be able to protect one of our entrepreneurs, better for sure than a Canadian court (perhaps an elective one). Amongst the findings, certainly the outputs according to which the export trend was still growing even before the provisional implementation deserve a special place. This is a very curious observation from a microeconomic point of view as it would imply the lack of any effect on sales following a price decrease. What about the threaten of a Canadian goods invasion? Not received. Our imports fell slightly in 2018 and then increased by 127 million in 2019 (an increase that was largely offset by exports with a positive balance that grew by 251 million). And even if imports were to increase in the future, it would not necessarily be bad news as our industry has a growing need for commodities and raw materials to be processed and resold. I don’t intend to take ideological positions of any kind, I simply confirm my extremely positive overall opinion on CETA, not only on the basis of data but above all on the basis of our entrepreneurs’ clear and strong voice, who are probably more titled than many economists, journalists or even us politicians.

I believe that the favour publicly expressed towards CETA by basically all business associations of all production sectors, as well as the satisfaction expressed to me personally by all the Italian companies I met during my recent mission to Canada, can only confirm the benefits that agreements of this kind can bring to a country such as Italy, living on open markets. However, the evolution of the debate we are witnessing and the substantially positive judgements on CETA by those who depicted it as a bad agreement until recently reassure me, because, even in these difficult times, they give me hope that rationality and correct information may sooner or later prevail over ideology and over disinformation.

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