U.S. Food Producers, Manufacturers Urge President Trump to Voice Serious Concerns to Japan, Mexico over EU Geographical Indications Lists
Luke Waring, USDEC
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a letter sent today to President Donald Trump, U.S. food industry groups representing farmers and food manufacturers across several sectors urged the United States to immediately impress upon Japan, Mexico and the Mercosur nations that the lists of geographical indications (GIs) they are considering for approval with the European Union (EU) - or will soon be considering - must not include common food and beverage terms such as "parmesan," "vintage" and "bologna."
In its trade discussions with Japan and Mexico, the EU is currently pushing approval for lists of geographical indications (GIs) that include many common food names in an effort to monopolize those terms and block market access for various foods, wines and other beverages, the groups note. Japan and Mexico are closing their comment periods on the lists within the next few days, after which they are expected to finalize their negotiations with the EU. The Mercosur nations are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
"On behalf of American farmers and food manufacturers across this country, we ask for your direct attention to an issue that could have a significant negative impact on U.S. market access with two major trade partners: Mexico and Japan," the letter states. "If the U.S. government firmly expresses its concerns now to Mexico and Japan regarding the importance of safeguarding common names and terms for all to use, both nations might be more inclined to take the right and just steps in these discussions. For the same reason, we strongly encourage firm and clear communications on these points with the Mercosur bloc of countries, the U.S. trading partner region most likely to next initiate a similar process to the ones currently underway in Mexico and Japan in light of ongoing EU-Mercosur FTA negotiations."
The letter is signed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, Brewers Association, Consortium for Common Food Names, Grocery Manufacturers Association, International Dairy Foods Association, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Milk Producers Federation, North American Meat Institute, United Fresh, U.S. Dairy Export Council, USA Rice and Wine Institute.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has recognized the severity of EU abuses of GI policies, noting in this year's intellectual property report that "the EU GI agenda remains highly concerning, especially because of the significant extent to which it undermines the scope of trademarks and other IP [intellectual property] rights held by U.S. producers, and imposes barriers on market access for American-made goods and services that rely on the use of common names, such as parmesan or feta."
Moreover, it is an agenda that continues to expand and is likely to threaten even more products, such as plant varieties, moving forward, as is evidenced by the EU's market-share grab of deeming long-standing and widely used grape varieties such as "prosecco" to now be GIs reserved exclusively for Italian use.
"Many U.S. companies - and the farmers who provide them with raw goods - will be harmed if Japan and Mexico fully accept the EU lists as is without pushing back and objecting to the inclusion of common terms," the industry letter states. "We hope the United States will make its voice heard with Mexico and Japan, and in turn with Mercosur countries, clearly stating that we expect them to respect current trade agreements, including our market access rights under those agreements, and that it is in their best interests to safeguard common terms for all producers."
Jaime Castaneda, executive director of the Consortium for Common Food Names, which has been coordinating U.S. industry filings on the GI lists in Japan and Mexico, stated: "The EU's predatory strategy of using its FTA talks to hamper market access for its competitors, including many small- and medium-sized U.S. companies, must not be tolerated. As Japan and Mexico prepare to make their final decisions on lengthy EU GI lists that would impair the use of common names, we call on the administration to send a firm message at the highest levels that we expect our trading partners to abide by their existing trade commitments to us and preserve market competition in these common product categories."
The National Milk Producers Federation, based in Arlington, Va., develops and carries out policies that advance the well-being of U.S. dairy producers and the cooperatives they collectively own. The members of NMPF's cooperatives produce the majority of the U.S, milk supply, making NMPF the voice of nearly 32,000 dairy producers on Capitol Hill and with government agencies. For more on NMPF's activities, visit www.nmpf.org.
The U.S. Dairy Export Council is a non-profit, independent membership organization that represents the global trade interests of U.S. dairy producers, proprietary processors and cooperatives, ingredient suppliers and export traders. Its mission is to enhance U.S. global competitiveness and assist the U.S. industry to increase its global dairy ingredient sales and exports of U.S. dairy products. USDEC accomplishes this through programs in market development that build global demand for U.S. dairy products, resolve market access barriers and advance industry trade policy goals. USDEC is supported by staff across the United States and overseas in Mexico, South America, Asia, Middle East and Europe. The U.S. Dairy Export Council prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, disability, national origin, race, color, religion, creed, gender, sexual orientation, political beliefs, marital status, military status, and arrest or conviction record. www.usdec.org.
The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), Washington, D.C., represents the nation's dairy manufacturing and marketing industries and their suppliers, with a membership of 550 companies within a $125-billion a year industry. IDFA is composed of three constituent organizations: the Milk Industry Foundation (MIF), the National Cheese Institute (NCI) and the International Ice Cream Association (IICA). IDFA's nearly 200 dairy processing members run nearly 600 plant operations, and range from large multi-national organizations to single-plant companies. Together they represent more than 85 percent of the milk, cultured products, cheese, ice cream and frozen desserts produced and marketed in the United States. IDFA can be found online at www.idfa.org.