Food Law News - EU - 2001

Commission Press Release (IP/01/1313), 25 September 2001

WTO and Agriculture : EU wants WTO to Tackle Pirating Names of Quality Food

At the third Special Session meeting of the WTO Committee on Agriculture, held in Geneva this week, the European Union (EU) tabled a proposal on the protection of geographical indications. The EU emphasises the importance of increased market access for products of certain denominations. "We cannot let people believe that they are buying a genuine product with specific qualities, characteristics and reputation associated with a certain geographical origin, such as Parma Ham or Champagne, while in fact they get a entirely different product", EU negotiator David Roberts said in Geneva. Therefore an appropriate mechanism should guarantee effective protection against usurpation of names and the right to use geographical indications or designations of origin. Consumer protection and fair competition should also be ensured.

This special session is being the work programme of the second phase of negotiations to continue the reform process under Article 20 of the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (AoA).

When a food product becomes well-known outside its area of origin, it may have to compete with different and yet similar products making use of the same name. It may even be excluded from exploiting its own geographical name because local producers have converted it into a trademark. "Unauthorised use of geographical indications is extremely harmful to consumers and legitimate producers. On the one hand, the genuine producers suffer economic damage because valuable business is taken away from them and the established reputation for their products is compromised.

On the other hand this situation also leaves the consumers with feelings of frustration because they do not receive the specific quality of product which the label suggest they are buying", said David Roberts, the European Commission's negotiator at the WTO agriculture talks. Therefore it is important that increased market access goes hand in hand with enhanced protection. Whilst promoting the development of high-quality food products, it should at the same time guarantee this quality to consumers. "Improved market access for such products is not only important for the EU. Developing countries, who possess a great richness and variety of food products based on traditional know-how, stand to benefit as well from increased protection against misuse of their specialised food product denominations. Therefore the EU proposes that an appropriate protection mechanism should be put in place

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