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Canada-style EU GI cheese compromise 'entirely unacceptable': USDEC

By Mark Astley+

24-Jul-2014
Last updated on 24-Jul-2014 at 17:49 GMT

A positive outcome of TTIP talks would, for example, allow the export of US-made Feta
A positive outcome of TTIP talks would, for example, allow the export of US-made Feta "labelled as such" to the EU, says USDEC.

The compromise reached by Canada and the European Union (EU) on geographical indications (GIs) would be "entirely unacceptable" to the US, the US Dairy Export Council (USDEC) has said.

Under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), sealed late last year, current Canadian users of EU GI-protected food names, such as Asiago, Feta, Munster and Gorgonzola, may continue to use them.

Those that employ them in future are only permitted to do so, however, if they are accompanied by terms such as 'type', 'style', or 'imitation'.

Last week, during the latest round of EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks in Brussels, the European Dairy Association (EDA) said that it was confident negotiators would reach a compromise on GIs - just as the EU and Canada did in late 2013.

Speaking with DairyReporter.com, Jaime Castaneda, senior vice president of trade policy, USDEC, said the CETA outcome on GIs was "not a true compromise."

“The CETA GI outcome is entirely unacceptable to the US,” said Castaneda.

“It was entirely focused on GI protections while ignoring the elephant in the room – the EU’s creeping restrictions on common food names in its own market and in other markets around the world. Perhaps this is not a concern for Canada, but it is a major problem for the US.”

"Break new ground"

EU GI products are categorized under the protected designation of origin (PDO) and protected geographical indication (PGI) schemes, which identify a good as originating in a particular region or locality where a "given quality, reputation or other characteristic" is attributable to its geographical origin. 

US-made products using GI-protected food names such as Feta cannot currently be sold in the EU.

USDEC,which represents the global trade interests of the US dairy sector, warned last week that American dairy processors and farmers would be impacted if the same policy is transferred to the US under TTIP.

Instead, Castaneda said, USDEC would prefer an outcome that "addresses both sides of the issue - not only protection of legitimate GIs but also safeguards for the use of common names, including in the EU market."

“That would truly break new ground and represent a meaningful step forward on the topic of GIs."

A positive outcome would permit, for example, the export of US-made Parmesan and Feta "labelled as such" to the EU, he said.

"Strong protections for GIs must be balanced by similar protections for commonly used names."

Way forward?

Despite the current stalemate, USDEC agrees with its European counterpart that some sort of compromise can be met.

This will, however, need to be sought outside of the TTIP talks, said Castaneda.

“In order to truly drive towards a mutually agreeable compromise on this issue, there needs to be separate, issue-specific discussions focused solely on the common names issues and GIs," he said. 

"As part of the process, the EU would need to acknowledge that there are now numerous cases of EU GI policy going too far.”

If unwilling to remove the issue of GIs from TTIP, closing the trade talks will be difficult, he added.

“We certainly hope that it will not hold back TTIP talks, but that decision largely rests on the EU. Is it willing to address US trade concerns related to the excessive pieces of EU GI policies, including the EU’s restrictions on the generic terms Feta and Parmesan?”

“Or will the EU insist on a CETA-style agreement which roughly two-thirds of the US Senate and over 175 US House of Representatives have declared to be unacceptable? That remains to be seen at this stage," said Castaneda.

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