PGIs are used for foods and drinks from particular regions, such as Roquefort cheese, Parma ham and Cornish pasties. The United States currently does not recognise the European system of PGIs and allows the use of such names no matter where the product was produced – including ‘Parmesan’ cheese or ‘Frankfurter’ sausages made in the US.
The Commission published several documents outlining EU proposals on Tuesday in an effort to increase transparency, including on GIs, in response to criticism that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations have been too secretive. Among the papers is a document that highlights GIs as a “sensitive or controversial” issue, and claims that US use of protected food and drink names misleads consumers.
“We want key improvements in the US system, such as protection for an agreed list of EU GIs and enforcement of rules against their misuse,” it says.
The papers have been released after German agriculture minister Christian Schmidt suggested protected food names might need to be dropped under TTIP. He told Germany’s Spiegel magazine: "If we want to take advantage of the opportunities of free trade with the huge American market, we can no longer have every type of sausage and cheese each protected as a speciality.”
However, the EU has dismissed his comments.
"It is not about changing or lowering any food quality standards in Europe. We have made clear to our American counterparts that the protection of geographical indications is one of our main priorities,” said European Commission spokesman Daniel Rosario at a press briefing. "We have not agreed and will not agree to reduce the protection of our geographical indications in Europe.”
He added that the trade discussions were about protecting European intellectual property as well as geographical indications in the US, such as 100% Florida orange juice and Tennessee whiskey.
All of the TTIP documents released by the Commission are available online here.