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Dairy Facts 2016

EU-South Africa Trade Deal Could Shut Out U.S. Cheese

Sep 10, 2014

After 10 years of negotiations, the European Union (EU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have signed an economic partnership agreement that includes the 28 member states of the EU, South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Angola and Mozambique. Of particular concern for the U.S. dairy industry is the provision that offers the EU protection for geographical indications (GIs).

A recent GAIN report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) notes that the deal “would be prohibitive to trade and could affect United States exports.”

“It’s unfortunate that South Africa agreed to the EU’s aggressive agenda on GIs,” said Clay Hough, senior group vice president for IDFA. “The EU’s list includes common cheese names such as feta, asiago, fontina and gorgonzola. These are generic terms and, therefore, should not be granted protection for exclusive use by the EU.” 

The Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN), of which IDFA is a founding member, expressed concern in a letter to the South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool about the loss of market access opportunities in the South African market for certain cheeses.

“South Africa is not the first nation from which the EU has extracted a commitment that gives EU producers sole right to use such common names as part of one of its ‘free trade’ agreements,” CCFN said in the letter. “This has become a commonplace priority for EU negotiators as a means of gaining an added advantage for its products beyond the customary tariff preferences afforded by FTAs.”

CCFN concluded that prohibiting U.S. companies and others from using names of global commercial significance that became generic long ago is unacceptable. The letter also was sent to Ambassador Michael Froman, U.S. Trade Representative, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

For more information, contact Beth Hughes, director of international affairs at IDFA, at

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