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  • Bipartisan, bicameral legislation introduced aims to protect common names for U.S. cheese and other products

    By USDEC Staff May 17, 2023

    The EU makes trade agreements that deny market access to cheesemakers who have long used common names like parmesan, feta, fontina, gorgonzola and asiago. 

    Common Food Names4

    The U.S. government would need to take steps to deliver better protection for common names like "parmesan," "chateau" and "bologna" against EU tactics if language introduced today by bipartisan, bicameral Members of Congress is finalized in the farm bill.

    Led in the Senate by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and John Thune (R-SD) and in the House by Representatives Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Jim Costa (D-CA), Michelle Fischbach (R-MN) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), the language would explicitly direct USDA Foreign Agricultural Services to work with the U.S. Trade Representative to include the protection of commonly used terms like “parmesan”, “chateau” and “bologna” as a priority in international negotiations. This is the first farm bill effort on common names.

    USDEC calls it a "much-needed step"

    If adopted, the language would mark the first time the farm bill addresses the EU’s abusive market access restrictions through Geographical Indication (GI) negotiations in third-country markets, limiting market access for U.S. farmers and manufacturers.

    The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) commended today’s introduction of the language.

    “The lack of strong action by previous administrations has allowed the European Union to misuse and abuse its geographical indications, hurting U.S. exporters in several markets,” said Jaime Castaneda, executive director of CCFN. “This new emphasis on protecting common names is a much-needed step in the right direction to ensure that our producers can sell their products in markets around the world.”

    “In recent years, the European Union has been leveraging Free Trade Agreements (FTA) negotiations to improperly boost its own producers, putting a tremendous political priority on giving European companies a leg up over producers in the U.S. and other countries,” noted Castaneda. “It is time that our government takes a more proactive approach to defend jobs here in the United States and markets that were promised by our trading partners through FTAs or the WTO Uruguay Round.”

    The legislation follows a March 2, 2023, bipartisan, bicameral event on Capitol Hill coordinated by CCFN, Agri-Pulse, USDEC and other allied partners to highlight the need for heightened U.S. government action in counteracting the EU’s destructive GI campaign.

    Lost opportunities overseas

    This campaign not only leads to lost opportunities overseas; it brings expensive legal battles to U.S. shores. USDEC prevailed in a series of legal challenges to European attempts to trademark “gruyere” here at home, culminating in a March 3, 2023, federal circuit court ruling that the term is generic. While the ruling sets an important precedent in the United States, similar legal review processes in third-country markets are not guaranteed. More problematic, however, is the EU’s attempts to include restrictions on common terms directly in its free trade agreements, to which the United States currently has little recourse to address.

    The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) highlighted this concern and prioritized the protection of common names in this year’s Special 301 Report. The report includes several principal areas of concern that CCFN detailed in comments submitted in January 2023, with support from NMPF and USDEC.

    The 301 Report said: “As part of its trade agreement negotiations, the EU pressures trading partners to prevent any producer, except from those 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.”

    In a joint news release, USDEC, NMPF and CCFN point out that since 2009, the EU has used trade negotiations and intellectual property rules to confiscate common names for their producers, monopolizing certain products in specific markets.

    Much is at stake for U.S. dairy producers and exporters. USDEC and its allied organizations are committed to advancing the Safeguarding American Value-Added Exports (SAVE) Act into law and securing lasting rights for U.S. cheesemakers to use the names that consumers around the world have come to know and recognize.

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    The U.S. Dairy Export Council fosters collaborative industry partnerships with processors, trading companies and others to enhance global demand for U.S. dairy products and ingredients. USDEC is primarily supported by Dairy Management Inc. through the dairy farmer checkoff. How to republish this post.  

    Trade Policy Geographical Indications (GIs) Common food names
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