European Parliament, 29 September 2005
On 15 September, the European Union and the United States reached a first phase agreement on trade in wine, which will protect EU wine designations and secure access to the crucial American market for European wines.
Addressing MEPs in plenary, Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel welcomed the agreement, saying it "may facilitate a non-polemical and substantial dialogue with the members of the New World Wine Group." The Parliament, however, passed a resolution critical of the accord's many shortcomings.
Under the accord, EU wine exports will be exempted from the new US certification requirements adopted in 2004. In addition, the US administration agreed to press Congress to change the status of 17 EU wine designations (such as Burgundy, Champagne, Chianti, Sherry and Tokay) currently considered "semi-generic" terms, and limit their use in the US. Once this legal protection is in place, the EU has pledged to recognise American wine-making practices.
Furthermore, both sides agreed to start second-phase negotiations 90 days after the date of entry into force of the agreement, covering the use of names of origin, geographical indications, traditional expressions and the creation of a joint committee on wine issues. The two sides also agreed to settle future disputes in a bilateral framework, instead of taking disagreements to the WTO.
Parliament's resolution insists that the agreement constitutes only an "initial, insufficient and inadequate step towards international recognition of the EU's protected traditional names." The resolution (proposed jointly by the EPP-ED, PES, ALDE, Greens/ALE, UEN and GUE/NGL groups) expresses MEPs' worries that traditional models of wine production could be endangered by the agreement, and that the EU's position in agricultural negotiations of the WTO could also be negatively affected.
It calls on the Commission to sign a final compromise within the next two years, guaranteeing the protection of EU wine designations in the US. Parliament also requested that the Commission continue international negotiations to establish a binding definition of wine and a register of internationally recognized geographical indications.