Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Friday 04/04/14

Senators See No Place for Geographical Indicators

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas is probably just the guy to diplomatically express to European Union where to stick a geographical indicator.

Roberts, along with Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, spearheaded a letter signed by 45 total senators (30 Republicans, 15 Democrats) asking Trade Ambassador Michael Froman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to fight against geographical indicators being pushed by the European Union in the possible trade deal.

Europe likes to declare that certain foods contain special characteristics and thus can only called that food if it came from this place or that. It's also a handy way of keeping a competing food product from being imported. The issue has been raised over cheeses such as parmesan and feta. The senators in their letter specifically cited common terms for meat such as bologna, bratwurst or kielbasa.

As Roberts stated, "This is totally ridiculous. We cannot let the European Union slant the playing field to their advantage through absurd restrictions on what a food can be named. American producers should not be blocked from trading with other nations, especially those we have free-trade agreements with, based simply on what we name our product."

In their letter, the senators wrote, "In country after country, the EU has been using its FTAs to persuade trading partners to impose barriers to U.S. exports under the guise of protecting GIs (geographical indictors). This trade-damaging practice is concerning anywhere, but it is most troubling where the U.S. has an established FTA or is actively negotiating a new agreement. For example, as part of their recently implemented FTA with the EU, countries in Central America agreed to impose new restrictions on the use of "bologna," effectively closing an export opportunity that the U.S.-Central America FTA opened for U.S. companies. Similar trade barriers are being imposed in other parts of Latin America and are also under discussion in many Asian countries involved in negotiations with the EU."

The senators said the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is intended to improve the economies of both the U.S. and Europe by lowering trade barriers, but that would be watered down by the EU's "gratuitous use" of geographical indicators to protect local markets.

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Posted at 3:11PM CDT 04/04/14 by Chris Clayton
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