The Office of the United States Trade Representative announced good news last week for U.S. cheese companies that export to Central America. USTR reported that the Government of Honduras will take action to provide clarification on the right to use several generic cheese names, including parmesan and provolone. This action will help to protect and promote market access in Honduras, which is an important trading partner for U.S. dairy exports.
Honduras is a member of the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). U.S. dairy exports to CAFTA partners totaled $109 million last year, with Honduras ranking second in the region.
These common cheese names came under attack as a result of a bilateral agreement crafted between Honduras and the European Union, which has increasingly sought to use inappropriate geographical indications as a barrier to trade. Following a series of discussions with USTR, the Honduran authorities agreed to clarify the scope of protection allowed for GIs and to take additional actions regarding future GI applications.
For example, exporters will be able to visit an official Honduran website to determine whether geographical indications are generic for individual components of a compound and therefore not entitled to GI protection when used in isolation. The government also committed to clarifying the possible generic status of individual terms in future cases via public notices and postings.
“The EU GI agenda is an attempt to monopolize and clawback the use of certain cheese and other food names that the United States and many other countries regard as generic,” said Clay Hough, IDFA senior group vice president. “We view these efforts by the EU as de facto trade barriers, and we appreciate the considerable efforts of the USTR to protect the use of common names that cheese manufacturers have used for generations.”
For more information, contact Beth Hughes, IDFA director of international affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.