US dairy industry raises concerns over regional food names in TTIP negotiations

Geographical indicators and common food name issues have been flagged by the US dairy sector as ‘issues’ during a Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) forum.

The US Dairy Export Council (USDEC), briefed US and EU negotiators this week on deep-set concerns with the EU’s current approach to protections for geographical indications (GIs).

USDEC’s Brussels Representative Maike Moellers made three central points to negotiators, points that are also supported by CCFN members. The first was that the approach to GIs used in the EU-Canada agreement is wholly unacceptable to producers that use 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. This is a notion that we absolutely reject,” she said.

Such demands, she added, “would envisage US producers as well as others in the world relinquishing their right to use long-standing generic food names, such as ‘asiago’, ‘feta’, ‘fontina’, ‘munster’ and ‘gorgonzola’.”

Moellers noted that roughly $21 billion in US cheese production uses European-origin names, reflecting the immigrant roots in the US that trace back to many European countries.

Moellers’ second point was that GIs can be workable when approached correctly.

“We do believe that products with a very specific geographic designation included in their compound name, such as ‘Gouda Holland’, can be protected to the benefit of producers and consumers, while the single word ‘gouda’ clearly remains unrestricted and in free usage,” she said.

Thirdly, Moellers noted that EU prohibitions are proliferating around the world, spread within trade agreements and new registrations, most notably the EU’s current movement to register ‘havarti’, a cheese for which an international Codex standard exists.

“As a result of these various efforts,” Moellers said, “competition to EU products is eliminated by restricting third-country markets for US exports.”

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