The European Union would like to retain its PGIs in the trade deal, ensuring that products like parmesan cheese, cognac or Cornish pasties only refer to locally produced specialties. The United States uses many European GI-protected names generically within its own borders and would like to continue doing so.
At a stakeholder briefing held alongside the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks in Brussels earlier this month, the US Dairy Export Council (USDEC) said that until recently, Europeans had viewed US-made ‘parmesan’ and ‘feta’ cheeses as generic – and about $21m-worth of US cheese used names of European origin.
USDEC’s Brussels representative Maike Moellerssaid that allowing a generic term, such as gouda for example, while differentiating ‘Gouda Holland’, could benefit producers and consumers alike.
Moellers also objected to EU trade deals with other regions that include conditions on the protection of GI foods.
“As a result of these various efforts, competition to EU products is eliminated by restricting third-country markets for US exports,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Switzerland-based Organisation for an International Geographical Indications Network (OriGIn) rejected the claim that PGIs were protectionist. It has argued that PGIs can create long-term jobs and protect consumers against unfair business practices – in the US as well as in Europe.
“The US market offers interesting commercial opportunities mainly due to the fact that consumers are increasingly interested in the origin of food,” it said. “Misleading practices currently tolerated in the US are detrimental to American consumers.”
OriGIn’s managing director Massimo Vittori claims there are untapped economic opportunities for US producers to use protected food names.
“US GIs face a number of legal challenges in their country of origin as well as in foreign markets, such as high enforcement costs, increasing misuse and, at least for the ones protected through certification marks, the obstacles to lodge a GI application in the EU,” he said. “These are the very issues that can be addressed in an ambitious free trade agreement such as the TTIP, with the objective to find innovative solutions.”
Moellers suggested that GIs should be debated separately from the TTIP talks to carefully assess concerns from both sides.
“We must avoid this issue becoming a stumbling block for an agreement that could otherwise present an unprecedented opportunity to boost free trade,” she said.