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EU's status as trading force in doubt after HALLOUMI row over Canada trade deal

Last week, Cypriot lawmakers voted against the EU's free-trade agreement with Canada in a 37-18 vote. Despite having a population of only 1.2 million, Cyprus appears to be risking a treaty that covers nearly 500 million consumers and 28 percent of the world’s economy. It is the first EU country to reject such a deal, which has been provisionally in force since 2017.

The parliamentarians' reasons for opposing the EU's Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Ottawa (CETA) include concerns over labour rights and in particular, over insufficient legal protections for Cyprus's national cheese: halloumi.

The island, which is split between Greek and Turkish sectors, would like their delicacy to get the same protected status as champagne and Parma ham.

The cheese is a mixture of goat and sheep milk matured in brine.

It is commonly used as a substitute for meat.

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EU's status as trading force in QUESTION after Halloumi row over Canada trade deal (Image: GETTY)

A spokesperson for the centre-left Movement for Social Democracy, one of the parties which opposed the deal, said: "We request the registration of halloumi as a Protected Designation of Origin product from Cyprus as soon as possible, so that we can support the ratification of CETA."

The source added Brussels needed to "handle the matter quickly and responsibly”.

According to a report by POLITICO, EU officials in Brussels have been preparing for this eventuality for years and think they have included enough safeguards into the legal framework of trade deals to ensure that one country's national parliament cannot scupper the entire accord.

Moreover, Brussels could also include protection for halloumi without reopening the deal.

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Cyprus is is an island country in the Eastern Mediterranean (Image: GETTY)

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Halloumi cheese (Image: GETTY)

Guillaume Van der Loo, from the Centre for European Policy Studies told the publication: “The EU and Canada could include new GIs in the deal without reopening the deal, via a decision of the Joint Committee."

However, Cyprus' vote highlights a much bigger problem, as it could open the door to other members making similar requests.

It will also test whether EU countries’ parliaments can torpedo big deals.

The Netherlands, a supposedly die-hard free-trading nation, appears to have doubts over the ratification of CETA.

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 is an island country in the Eastern Mediterranean

A protest against CETA outside the European Parliament (Image: GETTY)

Italy’s junior minister for trade, Manlio Di Stefano

Italy’s junior minister for trade, Manlio Di Stefano (Image: PA)

The deal just about passed through a vote in the lower house – but the Dutch Senate will prove even harder to win round, as Mark Rutte's government does not hold a majority there.

Italy could also create problems.

Italian lawmakers have not voted on the deal yet because of a clash within the governing coalition with the anti-establishment 5Star Movement — the biggest party in the Parliament — openly opposing ratification

Italy’s junior minister for trade, Manlio Di Stefano from the 5Star Movement, repeatedly said that Italy shouldn’t ratify the deal.

He argues CETA does not sufficiently protect Italian products, such as Gorgonzola and Parmesan cheese, from imitation.

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