Clay Hough, IDFA senior group vice president, presented testimony last week in support of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement between the United States and the European Union. Speaking at a hearing held jointly by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Interagency Trade Policy Staff Committee, Hough said a successful agreement must remove all barriers to trade, especially geographical indications (GIs), that hinder U.S. dairy exports to the EU and threaten the use of common generic cheese names in the U.S. domestic market.
With global exports of $5.2 billion last year, the U.S. is a major dairy exporter, but obstacles to trade held U.S. exports to the EU to only $88 million. By contrast, the EU exported $1.3 billion in dairy products to the United States.
In its own market, the EU has broadly applied GIs, which provide producers in a specific region the exclusive 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. The EU currently bans the use of several cheese names, including asiago, feta, fontina, gorgonzola, gruyere, muenster, neufchatel and parmesan.
“The EU GI agenda is an attempt to monopolize and clawback the use of certain cheese and other food names that the U.S. and many other countries regard as generic. Many have been used in the U.S. domestic market for generations,” Hough said. “We view these clawback efforts by the EU as de facto trade barriers. They are a clear effort to limit competition and to bestow upon EU producers a considerable portion of the valuable markets that our companies have devoted time and resources to help build.”
As an example, Hough highlighted the U.S. dairy industry’s inability to sell parmesan and feta cheese in EU countries. He also mentioned increasingly aggressive efforts by the EU to block these products from other important markets for U.S. exports and said these issues need to be resolved before U.S. negotiators consider the EU’s interests regarding GIs.
In closing, Hough 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 will allow foreign dairy products to enter the U.S. as long as they meet all NCIMS standards, should allay EU concerns that the Grade “A” program operates as a trade barrier.
For more information, contact Hough at firstname.lastname@example.org.