Canada-EU Trade Agreement Heads List of Problematic FTAs Now Moving Forward

March 12th, 2017

canada-eu image 2A problematic free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union is expected to be in force in the second quarter of this year after the European Parliament granted its approval for the deal in mid-February. Under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, Canada agreed to establish geographical indications on cheese names long considered generic in that country. The agreement grandfathers in companies that used the cheese names before October 2013, but forces those initiating sales after that date to call their cheeses things like “feta-type” or “similar to muenster.” The GIs also bar new users from using label images that could suggest areas of Europe. CCFN has strongly criticized the GI provisions of CETA for limiting market access and for violating Canada’s international trade commitments. Last fall, an EU pledge to seek to overturn the grandfathering provision, which primarily benefits Canadian companies, illustrated as well the risks of taking an expedient view in trade negotiations rather than a principled one.

Updating other troublesome EU trade deals:

  • The end of this year is the new target date for completing the long-pending European Union-Japan free trade agreement, in which the EU wants to include a long list of geographical indications. Tokyo is especially eager to reach a deal now with the demise of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. The negotiations also throw into question the fate of a new Japanese law that established due process procedures for new GIs. Japanese government actions last year called into question whether Tokyo was contemplating ignoring those obligations in favor of protection for the EU on geographical indications.
  • A December European Court of Justice ruling appears to clear the way for a trade agreement requiring the EU and Morocco to protect all GIs registered by the other trading partner before January 2013. The FTA is just one in a series in which the EU has sought to prevent producers in other countries from using food names long considered in the public domain. However, this agreement is particularly broad, protecting more than 3,000 EU products. It also calls into question how Morocco will deal with trade agreements with other countries, including the United States. Already, companies in the region are reporting that interpretation of this agreement has caused changes in what is being imported. For instance, an anecdotal report indicated that Edam from a country other than the Netherlands was stopped at the border even though the European GI for Edam Holland does not restrict use of the generic term edam. CCFN has urged the U.S. Trade Representative to address the restrictive trade agreement.
  • The EU and Mexico are plowing ahead with negotiations to update their long-standing free trade agreement, including tackling the issue of geographical indications. In recent months, both countries have pledged to strengthen their trade ties as they seek to diversify their export markets. In February, the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee, Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), weighed in on the importance of Mexico respecting common names in these negotiations. In a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative with notification to the Mexican government, Hatch and Wyden said producers of products like feta cheese and bologna should not be discriminated against because of efforts to restrict common product categories widely produced in the North American Free Trade Agreement region. “We urge you to work to ensure that new restrictions are not imposed on U.S. products and that U.S. trademarks are not undermined as a result of the EU-Mexico or other negotiations on geographical indications and related issues,” the two senators said.