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Dairy groups question trade provisions

WASHINGTON -- U.S. dairy groups said Sept. 29 they are concerned that provisions in the proposed European Union-Canadian free trade agreement on geographical indications (GIs) and reallocation of a portion of the World Trade Organization tariff r...

WASHINGTON -- U.S. dairy groups said Sept. 29 they are concerned that provisions in the proposed European Union-Canadian free trade agreement on geographical indications (GIs) and reallocation of a portion of the World Trade Organization tariff rate quota for cheese to the EU will create trade barriers for American cheeses.

GIs are an internationally recognized form of intellectual property that requires a product bearing a name must originate from that location because the area of production gives it a special quality, reputation or other characteristic. The most frequently cited examples are Champagne, which must come from that region of France, or be called sparkling wine, and Parma ham. But European cheesemakers have been mounting campaigns to get international protections for some of their cheese names, while producers in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the New World regard the names as generic.

The European Union-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) provisions on geographical indications "are particularly alarming because they grant automatic protection to the EU for 'asiago,' 'feta,' 'fontina,' 'gorgonzola' and 'muenster' in complete disregard of Canadian intellectual property laws," the International Dairy Foods Association, the National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council said in a joint statement.

Manufacturers that produced those cheeses before Oct. 18, 2013, will be allowed to continue to use those names, but future producers of those cheeses will have to add qualifiers, such as "kind," "type," "style" and "imitation," they said.

"These new limitations on the use of generic names clearly violate Canadian intellectual property procedures and existing international trade commitments," they said.

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"The automatic protection for five cheese names that are generic in Canada, the U.S. and globally is another example of the EU's overreach on geographical indications," said Clay Hough, senior group vice president of the IDFA.

"The EU's GI strategy is incompatible with the fundamental goal of a trade negotiation, which is to remove trade barriers -- not add them -- and allow for greater competition," Hough said.

As part of the agreement, Canada also reallocated 800 metric tons of its 20,412 metric ton WTO tariff rate quota for cheese to the EU. This reallocation further restricts the limited access U.S. cheese exporters have into the Canadian market, the U.S. groups said.

"Canada added insult to injury by not only impairing the quality of the cheese market access U.S. exporters expect to gain through ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, but also moving to water down the small access they currently offer to U.S. exporters through Canada's WTO quota," said Jaime Castaneda, senior vice president for the National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

"This is yet another example of Canada's work at every turn to limit access into its market for highly competitive U.S. products," Castaneda said.

The text is not yet binding and still requires a legal review and ratification and the date of full implementation of the agreement is unknown at this point, the groups added.

The U.S. dairy industry also has been opposing the inclusion of GIs in the proposed TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the U.S. and the European Union.

Related Topics: DAIRYLIVESTOCK
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