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Canada  

Italy may block trade deal

Add Italy to the growing list of Canada's trade headaches.

Italy's agriculture minister said his country's new government won't ratify the Canada-European Union free trade accord, media reports said Thursday. Gian Marco Centinaio, whose government is led by a populist coalition, also insisted he's heard doubts about the 28-country deal from many of his European colleagues.

The development adds to Canada's collection of trade challenges, which already include deep uncertainty surrounding the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement, hefty steel and aluminium tariffs imposed recently by the United States and the threat of more to come on automobiles.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, in Washington on Thursday to try to jump start stalled NAFTA negotiations, told reporters she believes Italy will eventually sign on to the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, or CETA.

Freeland noted that Austria was initially reluctant to ratify CETA, but eventually came around.

"I'm confident we will have full ratification at the end," said Freeland, who added she had a "good" conversation about CETA with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during last weekend's G7 summit in Quebec.

Ninety-eight per cent of CETA came into effect last September on a provisional basis. The deal was settled in 2016 after years of talks, but all E.U. nations must now vote on it independently.

NAFTA, however, was the main topic of discussion for Freeland on Thursday during an hour-long meeting with U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer.

Canada, Mexico and the U.S. will continue negotiating NAFTA through the summer, although specific dates haven't been set, she said.

"We're going to make a real push over the summer," said Freeland, who called the meeting "constructive."

"I think all three countries are clear that meaningful progress has been made to date and we need to keep working hard to get to a deal."

Several Canadian cabinet ministers have been reaching out to their American counterparts this week in an effort to advance NAFTA talks and to persuade the Trump administration to back down from his steel and aluminum tariffs.

Lighthizer and Freeland also discussed the tariffs, which have been at the centre of an increasingly ugly dispute between the U.S. and many of its closest allies, including Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the tariffs "insulting" because they are based on the premise Canada poses a national security risk to the U.S. and has announced dollar-for-dollar retaliatory duties on a wide range of American imports. Trudeau's push back earned him an unprecedented personal attack from Trump and his emissaries after the G7 summit.



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