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Italy blocks EU-Costa Rica trade deal over cheese GI infringements

By Mark Astley+

25-Jul-2013
Last updated on 25-Jul-2013 at 18:03 GMT

Italy blocks EU-Costa Rica trade deal over cheese GI infringements

Italy has blocked the implementation of a trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and Costa Rica in protest to the use of geographical indication (GI) trademarks by cheese manufacturers in the country.

The Costa Rican Ministry of Foreign Trade (COMEX) confirmed yesterday that its entry into the Central American Association Agreement (CAAA) has been vetoed by Italy, just days before the country was due be given provisional approval on 1 August.

Italy is protesting the use by Costa Rican cheese makers of four Italian GI-protected cheese names - Provolone Valpadana, Fontina, Gorgonzola, and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Under the CAAA, which was designed to establish better trade between the two regions, all applying Central American countries are required to establish legislation to allow for the protection of European GIs.

EU GIs identify a good as originating in a region or locality in a particular country where a “given quality, reputation or other characteristic” is essentially attributable to the product’s geographically origin.

EU-Costa Rica talks on-going

The agreement between EU Member States and Central American nations, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama, was approved by the European Parliament in December 2012.

Despite its entry being recommended by Brussels, Italy’s current position prevents the unanimous decision necessary for Costa Rica to gain entry into the CAAA.

In a statement sent to DairyReporter.com earlier today, the EC confirmed, however, that talks to resolve the issue are on-going.

“The European Commission continues to work with the Council and the Central American countries with the clear objective that the agreement will be applied with a maximum number of countries on 1 August,” said European Union (EU) trade spokesperson, John Clancy in the statement.

Costa Rica “will take all necessary measures”

The Costa Rican Ministry of Foreign Trade has also devoted itself to take “all necessary measures” to meet the EU’s requirements.

“I regret that the prevention of specific interests has delayed the coming into force of the CAAA to Costa Rica,” said Costa Rican Minister of Foreign Trade, Anabel González.

This is a very important agreement for us and for the European Union and we were waiting for its next validity on 1 August.”

“The position of Italy shall prevent the entry into force as planned. We will take all necessary measures to ensure that, when the Council holds its next meeting in September, we can achieve the earliest entry into force of the agreement,” she added.

Legislation to protect EU GIs

According to the EU, the CAAA will “open up markets on both sides, help establish a stable business and investment environment, increase benefits for citizens and will foster sustainable development.”

The protection of intellectual property rights is an important aspect of the agreement.

Countries wishing to gain entry to the agreement are required to adopt new or amend old legislation to develop a GI system similar to that of the EU, and modify their legislation to allow for the protection of more than 200 EU GI products.