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Obama Administration: EU Cheese Maneuver is a Trade Barrier

May 6, 2014

A new report from the Obama administration calls out as a trade barrier the European Union’s efforts to prevent the U.S. dairy industry from using common cheese names. 
Essentially, the Europeans claim American versions of cheeses like parmesan, feta and muenster are not authentic, and thus shouldn’t use names of products originating in specific locations in Europe (i.e. “geographic indications”). But the latest edition of the National Trade Estimate from the office of the U.S. Trade Representative agrees with the U.S. dairy industry that this approach is nothing more than thinly veiled protectionism. 
“The United States continues to have serious concerns with the EU’s system for the protection of [geographic indications], including with respect to its negative impact on the protection of trademarks and market access for U.S. products that use generic names,” the report said. It added that the United States will monitor the EU’s actions in this area closely in the future. 
The NTE also recognized as a trade barrier Canada’s actions to limit U.S. access to its cheese market through both high tariffs and customs arrangements. In addition, a separate USTR report found unwarranted sanitary and phytosanitary requirements imposed on U.S. dairy products by multiple countries, including India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the European Union. 
“We appreciate USTR’s recognition of all these actions as limiting U.S. dairy exports around the globe,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern. “We will continue to work with the Obama administration in the future to lessen these trade barriers.”