The European Union (EU) and Chinese government this month proposed extending geographical indications (GI) protections to the use of 200 product names as part of a new bilateral trade agreement. Among 100 of the European GIs set to be protected in China were several commonly used cheese names, including asiago, feta, gorgonzola and Roquefort. If passed, U.S. producers of these cheeses would be barred from exporting them to China, despite the widespread and common use of the product names.

“The proposed agreement directly contradicts the spirit of past collaboration and agreement between the U.S. and China on the preservation of common food names in 2014,” said Beth Hughes, IDFA director of international affairs. “This latest action is another example of the European Union using GI agreements to effectively limit fair competition from non-EU cheese, wine and meat producers around the world.”

IDFA does not oppose legitimate GIs but opposes EU attempts to expand the protections beyond a small number of specialty foods to cover many food names that have no geographic identity. IDFA has repeatedly advocated for the U.S. government to push back against the European Union’s market protectionist efforts, most recently in comments to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) on the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

USTR has also highlighted this bilateral agreement between the EU and China as a potential threat to equal market access for common food names in their annual Special 301 Report on the state of intellectual property rights.

The agreement is expected to be concluded by the end of 2017. Industry groups, companies and governments across the globe now have two months to comment on the products selected for protection by both countries.

For more information, contact Hughes, at