Italy panic: ‘Made in Italy’ push over fears of products that ‘sound Italian’ to flood UK
Brexit: Paragone says ‘big lies’ are told about UK in Italy
The UK and European Union finally announced a post-Brexit trade deal last week after months of often bitter wrangling over a number of issues, predominantly fisheries, state aid and the EU’s so-called “level playing field”. Both the UK and European parliaments will now vote on the deal this week in a desperate race to have it ratified before the transition period deadline expires on December 31. Failure to reach terms on a trade deal would have seen the UK and EU revert to terms set by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), meaning tariffs would have been imposed on products going in both directions.
But in Italy, the country is becoming increasingly fearful over the impact on “Made in Italy” products from January 1 onwards, with the UK’s departure from the EU set to send prices surging across the board.
In addition, at around €780million, wines and sparkling wines represent the most valuable item of Italian agri-food exports to the UK.
Massimiliano Giansanti, President of the Italian General Confederation of Agriculture (Confagricoltura), said: “The failure of negotiations between the EU and the UK, with the return of customs tariffs and quotas, would have destabilised bilateral agri-food trade, which exceeds €55 billion a year.”
But he warned that “from January 1, exporting to the British market will in any case be more complicated in terms of documents and controls.”
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As a result, “costs will increase” and “all exports must be accompanied by a customs declaration.
“For wines, sparkling wines and liqueurs from the EU, the introduction of import certificates which also provide for the conducting of a laboratory test.”
The Confagricoltura President continued: “The National Farmers’ Union has already reported to its British government the risk of blockages and slowdowns in border traffic due to new obligations.”
“Finally, an increase in competition to our products is to be foreseen for bilateral trade agreements that the United Kingdom, following the withdrawal from the EU, will sign with third countries.
“An agreement has already been concluded with Canada and the negotiations are underway with the United States.”
“We must therefore strengthen promotional initiatives in favour of our products in the UK market and find new outlets for Made in Italy agri-food.
“We ask our Government to quickly start a reflection on the proposals presented by the EU Commission for the distribution among the Member States of the 5billion euros to limit the economic impact of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom.”
Luigi Scordamaglia, the chief executive of Filiera Italia, an association that combines agricultural production, distribution and Italian industry, has warned Italy “can’t let the UK become the point of entry of products that sound Italian, but don’t respect EU rules; the devil is in the detail”.
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He has backed the trade deal agreed between the UK and EU but has highlighted the need to define the details resulting from the application of Brussels’ level playing field, which refers to Britain’s compliance with the bloc’s legislation to continue exporting its products to the EU market.
The chief executive said: “In the end, common sense prevailed and the last obstacles relating to fishing and state aid have been overcome that certainly would not have justified a ‘no deal’ with disastrous effects for both parties.”
He highlighted how the UK, which represents a key outlet market for Italian food exports, “is worth about €25 billion in Italian exports, of which 3.4 billion in food exports alone.”
Mr Scordamaglia said: “Having avoided average tariffs of three percent that could reach 30 percent for some food products is a victory for both parties.
“Now the details consequent to the application of the level playing field must also be defined.”
Commenting on the importance of defining the details on the application of the level playing field, Filiera Italia has warned: “Special attention will be needed if the United Kingdom decides to close bilateral agreements with countries such as the United States.”
“We must be sure that the UK does not become an entry point for products that sound Italian, but do not respect European standards, a principle that the partnership agreement would prohibit, but as often happens, the devil is in the detail.”
Italian Agriculture Minister Teresa Bellanova had also thrown her support behind the post-Brexit trade deal agreed between the UK and EU.
She said: “I learned with satisfaction that an agreement was reached on future commercial relations between the EU and the United Kingdom.
“We are confident it will be a good encouragement for our exports in an already very complex moment.
“Italy will be able to continue exporting agri-food products without tariffs and without quotas and this is a very important result.
“The continuation of maximum protection for geographical indications existing as at December 31, 2020 is ensured, as required by the withdrawal agreement, and we promise to work with like-minded countries so that adequate protection is also given to future GIs registered after the definitive withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU.”
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.
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