Italy 'will benefit most' from EU-US trade pact

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Pascal Lamy, the former chief of the WTO, said Italy would benefit the most from the TTIP trade pact. Photo: Eric Piermont/AFP
17:18 CEST+02:00
Italy stands to be the “biggest potential beneficiary” of a long-awaited trade agreement between the EU and US, Pascal Lamy, the former director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO) said on Thursday.

Italian businesses, especially small to medium-sized ones working in sectors such as textiles, where there is a huge demand from overseas, will eventually reap the rewards of lower trade tariffs, Lamy said during the East Forum conference in Rome on the controversial TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership).

“If you look at the numbers, the production systems and export composition of Italy – especially among small and medium-sized businesses – this is good news,” he said.

“Italy is the biggest potential beneficiary.”

But he warned that the pact, which was due to be signed by the end of this year, needs to be handled with extreme political care.

The EU has claimed in the past that the agreement will create jobs and reduce the cost of living while detractors argue that it's a threat to public services and only favours big corporations.

“The old narrative of job creation doesn’t work anymore,” Lamy said.

“People’s concerns over things such as health, safety and the environment [need to be considered]. There is still a lot of work to do in order to convince the public.”

His comments came on the same day Italy’s latest trade figures were released, with exports rising 1.5 percent in May with respect to April and compared with two percent for the same month last year.

Istat, the national statistics agency, said the rise was due to an uptick in exports to other parts of the EU.

Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said during the event that exports have propped Italy up amid the economic crisis over the past few years.

“Italy is certainly a country that is focussed on exports,” he said.

“We are an open country, focussed on trade, commerce, dialogue and cultural interaction...this characteristic is recognized nearly all over the world.”


Earlier this year, Carlo Calenda, Italy’s vice minister for economic development, raised concerns over the sluggish negotiations for the trade deal, which would be the largest in the world.

Calenda and other EU officials feared that if the pact was not finalized by the end of 2015, then it might be stalled further by next year’s US presidential elections and a new administration. A new round of talks kicked off in April.

Enrico Letta, who was appointed Italy’s prime minister in April 2013 after two months of political stalemate following the general elections, pledged Italy’s commitment to the deal during a meeting with US President Barrack Obama later that year and promised to speed up talks during Italy's presidency of the EU Council in 2014.

But less than three months after the meeting he resigned, after his Democratic Party voted for a change in government.

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Letta said the deal now faces another hurdle – the potential exit of the UK from the EU.

“The EU without the UK will be less inclined to trade...I’m afraid that with [so-called Brexit] we are faced with a very risky situation.”

Meanwhile, the pact has seen growing opposition elsewhere in Europe, especially in Germany, where a YouGov poll in March said that 43 percent of Germans believed the deal would be “bad” for their country.

The biggest concerns were health and safety standards, especially in the area of food, as well as a clause that would allow corporations to sue governments in tribunals that are above national law.

An Italian opposition group, Campagna Stop TTIP Italia, was set up in February 2014 to fight against what it believes is a treaty “that favours the logic of unlimited profit over the protection of inalienable rights”.

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