FLORENCE, Italy (Reuters) – Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi backed the planned free trade deal between the European Union and the United States, saying on Friday it would be an “own goal” to let the opportunity for an agreement slip.
According to some estimates, the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) could unlock $100 billion a year in additional output in and create a wave of new jobs in both Europe and America.
However, talks to create what would be the world’s biggest free-trade zone have been held up in the face of widespread public concerns in Europe that the rules would allow big corporations too much power to impose their will on governments.
Renzi said there was scope to improve the negotiation process, which has also been criticized as secretive and undemocratic by opponents of the project. But he said the ultimate goal of a deal had to be met.
“It can’t be possible that the United States reaches an agreement with the Far East and Europe hesitates and stumbles over TTIP,” he said in a speech at a conference in Florence.
“If there needs to be more transparency, we’ll make it more transparent, if there needs to be more clarity, we’ll make it more clear, we’re convinced of this but it would be a gigantic own goal not to complete it,” he said.
Italy, whose struggling economy is heavily dependent on exports, has been a strong backer of the TTIP project, however surveys suggest that it faces strong public scepticism in other European countries, notably Germany, over its possible impact on food safety and environmental standards.
(Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Alison Williams)