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EU Expanding Dairy Trade Barriers by Restricting Common Food Names

March 7, 2014

Through its membership in the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN), NMPF met last month with U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to help convey dairy producers’ strong concerns about the continued expansion of barriers to commonly named dairy products. A number of companies and associations, representing both dairy producers and processors, conveyed a unified industry position in opposition to the EU’s efforts to limit U.S. competition by confiscating common food names. The fly-in meetings also included discussions the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and with Congressional staff.

The EU has been actively using its free trade agreements to seek to block U.S. companies from using many common product names (e.g., romano, muenster, parmesan, feta, and more). It executes this goal by terming those generic terms “geographical indications” (GIs) and claiming that only certain European producers should be authorized to use them. The EU has been clear that it sees the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as a way to put those restrictions in place in the U.S. market itself – thereby impacting not just U.S. exports, but also domestic sales. The meetings with leading U.S. government officials were intended to provide NMPF and other industry leaders with an opportunity to underscore the U.S. industry’s strong opposition to the EU’s latest in a long series of protectionist strategies.