The EU and Japan are in the final stages of negotiating a free trade agreement, and part of the deal is agreeing on a list of more than 200 GI-registered food names, which includes Parmigiano-Reggiano, Gorgonzola, and Camembert de Normandie.
The GI list is intended to protect regional food products that have obtained a high-quality reputation among consumers and are named after the regions in where they are traditionally produced, according to the EU.
This list of protected names was introduced to Japan in 2015 and several distinctive Japanese food products such as Kobe beef and Yubari melon are currently protected.
However, Japan also may be subject to change their products if the full list of protected names is approved as the Asian country produces their own Gorgonzola-style cheese labeled as “Hokkaido-made Gorgonzola.”
Canada recently signed a trade agreement with EU, CETA, which would protect 143 EU “geographical indications” of regional food and drink products.
“As a result of Canada's disregard for the integrity of its intellectual property system and trade commitments, Canada imposed even greater market access barriers to common name products, in the process harming Canadian consumers and producers, and Canada’s trade relationships,” US dairy leaders from USDEC, NMPF, and IDFA penned in a letter to Japan’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries.
US stance on ‘common’ food names
The Consortium of Common Food Names and US dairy groups have argued the EU’s plan to protect certain food terms would “deprive US manufacturers of markets that local industries have developed.”
One particular name, Parmesan cheese, is a term US dairy groups are looking to protect. Kraft 100% Parmesan, which is also sold in Japan by Morinaga Milk, would have to omit the name “Parmesan” from its labeling should the agreed-upon GIs list include Parmesan cheese.
“A strong example is ‘Parmigiano Reggiano’,” the letter said.
“It is completely acceptable for this compound term to belong exclusively to EU producers. But the common name ‘parmesan’ is generic, for use by all, regardless of nation.”
“It is not difficult to achieve an acceptable list of protected GIs, so long as those lists do not encroach on generic names and terms,” the letter stated.