Italy will not ratify the European Union's free trade agreement with Canada because it does not ensure sufficient protection for the country's specialty foods, new Agriculture Minister Gian Marco Centinaio said in a newspaper interview on Thursday.
Centinaio belongs to the far-right League party that this month formed a government coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement following an inconclusive election in March.
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is the first major trade deal the European Union has signed up to since it began implementing its South Korea agreement in 2011. All 28 EU member states must approve the accord for it to take effect.
CETA will abolish some 98 percent of customs duties, open up public tenders to companies and allow the EU to export more cheese and wine and Canada more pork and beef in quotas that expand over the next six years.
"We will not ratify the free-trade treaty with Canada because it protects only a small part of our PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) products," Centinaio told Italian daily La Stampa.
In the 28-member European Union, Italy has the highest number of food products that enjoy PDO and PGI labels.
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