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EU Aims to Protect Regional Foods

The bloc is seeking definitions of 41 traditional products whose names it says have been abused.

August 29, 2003|From Associated Press

The European Union on Thursday issued a list of 41 wines, cheeses and other products it wants protected by a global trade pact, accusing other countries of abusing the names of its delicacies.

Under the proposal -- which is opposed by the United States, Canada and others -- products labeled as Champagne, Parma ham, Roquefort cheese or any of the other names on the list would have to come from their traditional European regions.

"Abuses in third countries undermine the reputation of EU products and create confusion for consumers," said EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy. "We want this to cease for the most-usurped products."

In world trade talks in Cancun, Mexico, next month, the EU wants to create a global register of such geographically defined products that would ban producers from outside the traditional region from using such names.

The list unveiled Thursday includes Beaujolais, Chianti, Madeira and other wines; Feta, Gorgonzola, Roquefort and other cheeses; and Parma ham and Mortadella sausages. In some countries, these names are claimed to be generic or have been registered as trademarks by local producers.

"This is a short list of 41 products whose names are being abused and parroted" by non-EU producers, EU spokesman Gregor Kreuzhuber said.

He said the EU planned to seek protection later for 600 more "regional quality products." In addition, it awaits submissions of products peculiar to Cyprus, Malta and eight East European nations that will join the EU in May.

The EU is not alone. India is keen to protect Darjeeling tea, Sri Lanka its Ceylon tea, Guatemala its Antigua coffee and Switzerland its Etivaz cheese.

The EU has run into opposition from the United States and some Latin America nations that argue that in many cases products such as Sherry or Parmesan cheese were introduced by European immigrants and have been made in their new countries for generations.

"This is not about protectionism. It is about fairness," EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler said in a statement. "It is simply not acceptable that the EU cannot sell its genuine Italian Parma ham in Canada because the trademark 'Parma ham' is reserved for a ham produced in Canada."

He said geographical indicators are a quality guarantee and avoid confusion among consumers.

In recent bilateral trade agreements, the EU has stood firm in protecting its labels, forcing South Africa to phase out its use of the Port wine and Sherry labels, and demanding Chilean wine makers stop using the Champagne or Burgundy brands.

Under a liquor trade deal in the early 1990s, the U.S. agreed not to use labels such as Scotch whiskey or Cognac, while the EU said bourbon or Tennessee whiskey should remain exclusive American products.

However, the issue of geographic labeling is touchy, even within the EU.

Denmark has been fighting a seven-year legal battle over Greece's claims to exclusive rights over the name "feta" for its salty white cheese.

The 41 product names that have been "short-listed" by the EU for protection:

Wines and spirits: Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Chablis, Champagne, Chianti, Cognac, Grappa (di Barolo, del Piemonte, di Lombardia, del Trentino, del Friuli, del Veneto, dell'Alto Adige), Graves, Liebfraumilch, Malaga, Marsala, Madeira, Medoc, Moselle, Porto, Ouzo, Rhin, Rioja, Saint-Emilion, Sauternes, Sherry.

Cheeses: Asiago, Comte, Feta, Fontina, Gorgonzola, Grana Padano, Manchego, Mozzarella di Bufala Campagna, Parmiggiano Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, Reblochon, Roquefort, Queijo Sao Jorge.

Other products: Prosciutto di Parma, Prosciutto di San Daniele, Prosciutto Toscano, Safron de la Mancha, Jijona y Turron de Alicante, Mortadella Bologna.

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