CCFN Chairman Urges Trump to Address Cheese Trade Deficit Driven by GI Abuses

June 6th, 2019

The Trump Administration should take measures to address the inequity in cheese sales opportunities between the United States and the European Union, especially given the EU’s anti-trade practice of abusing geographical indications (GI) policies to monopolize generic cheese names as a means to shut out competition in its home market, as well as around the world. That is the message sent in a letter to President Trump in May by CCFN Chairman Errico Auricchio.

“The United States is an extremely profitable dairy market for the EU; we must leverage that power in correcting this deeply frustrating inequity,” Auricchio writes. “I urge you to utilize all available tools to remedy this situation. Let us at least consider imposing the same restriction on them that they do on us: require that they not sell cheeses by these names into our market, as long as we are locked out of theirs.”

The United States is Europe’s number one export market for cheese, totaling approximately $1 billion in annual sales, but the EU restricts competition from the United States in many cheese categories, contributing to a massive $1.6 billion U.S.-EU dairy trade deficit, the letter states.

“Europeans can sell their asiago, parmesan, feta, etc., in Wisconsin, but cheesemakers like me are blocked from selling Wisconsin cheeses by the same names in Europe,” Auricchio writes, noting that it is “truly aggravating” that “while we are shut out of their market, which includes some of the highest cheese-consuming nations in the world, the United States allows EU companies to sell their cheeses with these names into our lucrative U.S. market – competing with us for our own U.S. consumers.”

On the same day Trump received Auricchio’s letter, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) published an opinion piece in Politico that also urged action on GI abuses as an unfair barrier to trade. Senator Grassley is the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and also a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

“The EU has sought to exclude U.S. agricultural products from European and third-country markets through the use of labeling rules known as geographical indications,” Grassley wrote. “By preventing U.S. agriculture producers from using commonly accepted names, geographical indications impede the ability of U.S. producers to market their products abroad.”

In addition, the New York Times quoted Auricchio’s letter in a May 22 article about issues complicating trade between the United States and the EU.

One of the main ways the EU blocks U.S. competition is by preventing nations outside the EU from marketing cheeses within Europe using common names like “parmesan”, which the EU says are protected by GIs. The United States has long maintained that protection of a GI like “Parmigiano Reggiano” should not be extended to encompass generic terms like “parmesan” that have been used by cheesemakers around the world for generations. The full text of Auricchio’s letter to President Trump can be found on the CCFN website.