CCFN Continues to Work with Oceania in EU-Australia and EU-New Zealand Trade Negotiations

March 2nd, 2020

Australia and New Zealand are in the thick of free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with the European Union, with geographical indications (GIs) at the center of the debate in both cases. The EU has proposed 171 GI names for protection in Australia and New Zealand, among them such widely used terms as “feta”, “asiago” and “prosecco”.

CCFN member Dairy Australia has noted that local products with estimated annual aggregate sales of over $650 million are at some commercial risk if dairy GIs are built into any agreement with the EU.

In January, CCFN met with officials at the Australian Embassy in Washington, D.C. – joined by a CCFN member active in Australia – to highlight the need to safeguard generic terms as part of the trade negotiations. And last month a CCFN representative attended a stakeholder briefing conducted by the chief negotiators for the EU and Australia. At the briefing, Australian negotiator Alison Burrows repeatedly emphasized that Australia had not agreed to the protection of any GIs or what form (if any) such protection would take, and that the government was taking into account the concerns raised in the more than 400 oppositions filed on the FTA; many of these concerned common name issues. During the question-and-answer period, CCFN made the case for safeguarding common names and the need for a robust due-process opposition process. Among other participants who voiced concerns was Dr. Geoffrey Annison of the Australian Food & Grocery Council, who pointed out the inconsistency in determining what terms qualified for protection even within the EU. He described “mission creep” to related terms, and asked what assurances the negotiators could provide that the FTA would encourage industries to grow in a collaborative and competitive spirit rather than simply tying up the market for EU producers.

Whether these issues will be resolved in 2020 is unknown. The EU has deferred market access discussions for sensitive agricultural products until the end of the FTA negotiation process.