USDEC, CCFN 'absolutely reject' Canadian GI compromise as 'model for TTIP'

By Mark ASTLEY contact

- Last updated on GMT

USDEC, CCFN 'absolutely reject' Canadian GI compromise as 'model for TTIP'

Related tags: European union

The US Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) have reiterated their "deep-set concerns" about the European Union's (EU) Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) stance on geographical indications (GIs). 

Addressing TTIP negotiators from the EU and US in Brussels this week, USDEC representative, Maike Moellers, again rejected suggestions that the EU's agreement with Canada on GIs could serve as "a model for TTIP." 

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU included protection for nearly 150 GIs, including Danish Danablu cheese and Brie de Meaux from France. 

Canadian users of GI-protected food names, such as Asiago, Feta, Munster and Gorgonzola, may continue to use them under CETA, but those that employ them in future are only permitted to do so if accompanied with terms such as 'type' or 'style'.

This approach, Moellers told TTIP stakeholders, is unacceptable to the US dairy produces, who USDEC says churn out around US$21bn of cheeses using GI-protected common food names.

"Since the conclusion of the EU-Canada agreement, we have heard from the EU side again and again that the agreement with Canada on GIs could be a model for TTIP,"​ said Moellers.

"This is a motion that we absolutely reject."

Economic impact

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 essentially attributable to to geographical origin.

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

During her presentation, Moellers touched on the spread of GIs through trade agreements and new registrations - most notably the current move to register Danish cheese name Havarti.

But Kirsten Holm Svendsen, dairy policy director at the Danish Dairy Board, said it is more interested in protecting its GIs in Europe.

Speaking with DairyReporter.com, Svendsen, who briefed TTIP stakeholders alongside Moellers this week, said the Danish Dairy Board is "not interested"​ in protecting Denmark's cheese GIs in the US.

"We are not getting into that with the Americans,"​ she said.  

Just two Danish cheese names - Danablu and Esrom - currently hold GI status. Two others - Havarti and Danbo - are currently awaiting final approval from the European Commission (EC).

"...we are a very small country, so the economic impact would not be very high,"​ said Svendsen. "For us, it is higher in the European Union."

Other EU Member States - Greece and Italy in particular - have maintained a harder line on the protection of GIs during TTIP talks. 

Italy is unsurprisingly keen to protect its scores of Italian GI cheese names, including Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, Gorgonzola, and Fontina, and Greece refuses to move on its Feta GI.

Defending the positions taken by Greece and Italy, Svendsen stated simply: "Their economic interest in protecting GIs is much higher than ours." 

"Stumbling block"

USDEC and CCFN does believe, however, that GIs can be workable "when approached correctly."

“We do believe that products with a very specific geographical designation included in their compound name, such as ‘Gouda Holland’, can be protected to the benefit of producers and consumers,​" Moellers told TTIP stakeholders, "while the single word ‘Gouda’, clearly remains unrestricted and in free usage.”

Otherwise, as USDEC has previously suggested, the only option is to deal with GIs in a separate forum outside TTIP talks. 

“We must avoid this issue becoming a stumbling block for an agreement that could otherwise present unprecedented opportunity to boost free trade,"​ said Moellers.

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