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U.S. Trade Representative Calls Out EU GI Abuses and Impacts on U.S. Exporters

April 30, 2021

The Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN), National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) today commended Ambassador Katherine Tai and U.S. Trade Representative Office staff, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other administration partners, for reaffirming in its Special 301 Report the U.S. government’s commitment to tackling continued European Union (EU) misuse of legitimate geographical indications (GI) protections.

USTR’s Special 301 Report, an annual publication tallying global challenges pertaining to intellectual property issues, called out the EU’s policy of blocking fair competition through the pursuit of geographical indications restricting the use of common food and beverage terms, which erect barriers to trade in products relying on common food names. “As part of its trade agreement negotiations, the EU pressures trading partners to prevent all producers, other than in certain EU regions, from using certain product names, such as fontina, gorgonzola, parmesan, asiago, or feta. This is despite the fact that these terms are the common names for products produced in countries around the world.”

“USTR has accurately diagnosed the problem. Now the task before the U.S. is to take the necessary steps to effectively curb this scourge to U.S. food and agricultural producers,” said CCFN Executive Director Jaime Castaneda. “The EU’s GI policy is intentionally barring competition from a host of other suppliers that all simply seek a level playing field including small and medium-sized family-owned companies, farmer-owned cooperatives, producers in developing countries and other actors throughout the supply chain that bear the brunt of these harmful restrictions. The U.S. must build on past advances to pursue a more proactive and effective path to combating the misuse of GIs by establishing concrete market access protections for the use of widely used terms.”

“Last year over 170 members of Congress urged an expansion of the trade toolkit the U.S. deploys to deal with geographical indications that block the use of common food names,” said Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. “It’s time to put that into practice and secure affirmative protections for the key common terms on which U.S. cheesemakers and other food producers rely. We look forward to working closely with USTR to achieve those gains to keep doors around the world open to made-in-America products.”

“U.S. dairy farmers and processors are counting on the U.S. government to have their back and defend their rights to cultivate opportunities around the world,” said Krysta Harden, President and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. “Our industry produces great products here at home and then works hard to market them overseas. To be as successful as possible, however, they count on strong U.S. government support to head off and combat unfair trade barriers such as geographical indications that ban the use of generic cheese terms. We want to partner with USTR to help bring the right policy tools to bear to make headway on this thorny issue.”

CCFN filed extensive comments with USTR outlining GI-related developments, foreign governments’ roles in driving those policies and the impacts on U.S. farmers and food producers. NMPF and USDEC also submitted comments supporting CCFN’s global overview and the need for a more robust U.S. trade policy approach to tackling GI abuses.