13th May 2016

Geographical indications could bring TTIP down, insiders indicate

The issue of protected indications of food products based on their origin is becoming more and more divisive as the talks slowly but steadily progress. The EU has an elaborate system of geographical indications – for example only a product made from certain type of milk, produced in a certain area of Greece, in a certain way, may be sold as Feta cheese. There are more than 1300 protected product names, plus 1750 wine names. The US have a more liberal approach with trademarks, not specific protection for foods. The problem is, though, that many EU protected product names are considered “generic” in the US, i.e. cannot be protected. The EC, pushed by the Council, the EP and many stakeholders, tries to do its best to include strong protection for EU protected names into TTIP. US stakeholders point out, however, that this may be a red line. EU agriculture is very protectionist in their view, which is confirmed by trade volume numbers – 13 billion USD worth more of agriculture products is imported to the US from the EU than the other way around. Applying similar product names restrictions in the US would largely damage some producers. Agriculture lobbies try to make sure such deal does not clear the US Congress. On the other hand, without at least protection for EU products in the US, TTIP is unlikely to pass in the EP and in the Council. The solution could be a compromise, whereas the US would protect only some EU products. This model was applied in the recent FTAs with Canada and Vietnam – for instance CETA provides protection for 145 most important EU food names in Canada. The US have strong interests in getting access for their agriculture products to the EU market, so a middle ground could be eventually reached, but there is objectively very little margin on both sides.

For more, click here.

Members of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic