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House Members Join Senate in Condemning EU Tactic on Cheese Names

June 10, 2014

A bipartisan group of more than 175 House members has joined a majority of the U.S. Senate in urging the Obama administration to fight back against European Union efforts to keep U.S. dairy companies from using common cheese names like parmesan and feta both in export markets and in the United States.

In a mid-May letter, the House members urged U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to use transatlantic trade talks to address a variety of export barriers hampering the U.S. dairy industry. Chief among them was the EU’s gratuitous use of “geographical indications” to limit the use of familiar food names in other countries. 
The letter followed similar correspondence sent in March by more than 50 senators.  
Two co-chairs of the Congressional Dairy Farmer Caucus, Reps. Reid Ribble (R-WI) and Peter Welch (D-VT), spearheaded the House letter, with help from NMPF, the U.S. Dairy Export Council and the International Dairy Foods Association. The letter pointed out that negotiations with the European Union over the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership are an opportunity to address protectionist measures that block U.S. dairy sales to 500 million consumers.
“The EU is taking a mechanism that was created to protect consumers against misleading information and instead using it to carve out exclusive market access for its own producers,” the letter said. “This type of barrier to trade and commerce defies the fundamental goals of a trade agreement, and we urge you to work aggressively against the EU’s efforts ….” 
NMPF also presented on the importance of the issues the House letter addresses – tariffs, common names and other nontariff barriers confronting U.S. dairy exports to the EU – to U.S. and EU negotiators during the May TTIP stakeholders forum in Arlington, Virginia.