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IDFA Supports Free Trade Negotiations with EU; Warns Against GIs

May 15, 2013

IDFA submitted comments to the U.S. Trade Representative last Friday to support the upcoming free trade negotiations between the United States and the European Union. In the comments, IDFA said the dairy industry would welcome the removal of all trade barriers that currently hinder U.S. exports to the EU, but warned against the EU geographic indications (GIs) agenda.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama announced that the administration would notify Congress of its intent to launch negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement with the EU. At the time, IDFA joined more than 60 other food and agriculture organizations in support of the initiative, but they warned against the inclusion of geographical indications, or GIs. The EU has broadly applied GIs, which provide a certain group of producers in a specific region the right to use a particular product name, to limit the use of food names that the United States and many other countries recognize as generic.

“Retaining the use of product names that have long been commonly used in the U.S., as well as in many other areas around the world, is a very important issue to the U.S. dairy and processed foods industry,” the comments said. “The EU’s desire to turn back the clock and now seek to monopolize names that had already become generic is an affront to the many companies – small and large – who have worked to help build the markets for these products, as well as to the industry as a whole through the incorrect suggestion that our use of these terms has not been legitimate.”

The EU currently bans the use of several cheese names, including asiago, feta, fontina, gorgonzola, gruyere, muenster, neufchatel and parmesan. Other cheeses, such as brie, cheddar, edam, gouda and mozzarella, are generic within the EU, but that hasn’t stopped EU negotiators from trying to restrict their use in foreign markets through other bilateral agreements.

IDFA said it opposes including GIs as part of the overall TTIP negotiations and recommends separate bilateral discussions with targeted goals.

“We see the EU’s GI strategy as completely incompatible with the fundamental goal of a trade negotiation – to remove trade barriers and allow for greater competition,” the comments said. “We would be open to a bilateral discussion with the E.U. on the GI issue with the goals of avoiding any new limitations on the usage of generic cheese and other food terms in the U.S. domestic market; addressing GI trade barriers erected by the EU in other countries; and removing the barriers to the sale of U.S. ‘parmesan’ and ‘feta’ in the EU domestic market.”

IDFA also noted that delegates at the recent National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments voted to incorporate the International Certification Pilot Program into the Grade “A” program. The program, which allows foreign dairy products to enter the U.S. as long as they meet all NCIMS standards, will allay EU concerns that the Grade “A” program operates as a trade barrier.

For more information, contact Clay Hough, IDFA senior group vice president, at chough@idfa.org.

 
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