Featuring Common Name Cheeses in Europe

usdec-in-parisCCFN member, the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), sent a delegation of staff and members to Europe in October to discuss strengthening trade relations and promoting more common-sense policies around food regulations and sustainability. The trip culminated in a policy dialogue and reception in Paris, where USDEC’s President and CEO, Krysta Harden, spoke to the attendees about the legitimacy of common food names, among other messages designed to foster smoother trading conditions. USDEC and the U.S. embassy followed up the policy discussion with a reception showcasing the high quality of many common name cheeses – including parmesan, asiago, and fontina – sourced from several American companies. The combination event, coupled with participation by several CCFN members at the Paris SIAL trade show that week, helped to underscore the breadth and open eyes to the top-notch taste of many non-European cheeses.

CCFN Pushes the Philippines to Reject Harmful Regulations

phillipine-flagFollowing a multi-year process of engagement by CCFN, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines issued final geographical indication regulations, which took effect November 20.

The new regulations establish a GI protection system that:

  1. Does not provide automatic GI protection, including for terms identified in a trade agreement, and
  2. Lays out a process requiring transparency steps and opposition procedures.

CCFN has participated in filing comments and testifying at hearings throughout multiple rounds of revisions to the regulations, in addition to working with the U.S. government to secure bilateral commitments regarding due process considerations for GIs and common names. Most recently, CCFN wrote to the Philippines in November to underscore finer points of the final regulations that merit consideration as implementation commences. The final set of regulations creates a framework that has various pro-GI elements included in it yet also certain tools for defending the rights of common name users.

The Philippines has a track record of protecting the use of common food names, a practice that benefits both its trading partners and its own domestic food industry. Building upon this, CCFN will continue to engage with Filipino officials to minimize any potential impacts of the new regulations on common name users.

Highlighting Common Names Issues to USTR

wine-and-cheeseRecent years have seen a growing trend of countries ignoring previously established trade commitments and laws to impose regulations that restrict the use of common names at the behest of EU trade negotiators. On December 7, CCFN wrote to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador Katherine Tai, emphasizing those concerns and laying out the countries where those developments pose particularly acute concerns. CCFN underscored that only the U.S. government can fully combat the present uneven global playing field dynamic as decisions on common name restrictions are made by official government trade negotiators.

From Mexico to Mercosur to Malaysia, CCFN detailed various examples of the EU using free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations to pressure other countries to adopt common name restrictions. It’s more important than ever that governments take a stand in defense of fair competition and stop the EU’s monopolization of common names.

Building Support for Common Names in Latin America

usdec-in-latin-americaWhile Europe continues to try to flex its muscles through FTAs in Latin America, CCFN has been active in strengthening relationships and building a consensus around common names protections.

CCFN members USDEC and National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) formalized an agreement with Argentine agricultural association Sociedad Rural Argentina (SRA) on September 8th to collaborate on promoting common trade and food policy objectives. A few weeks later, USDEC and NMPF also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chilean Federacion Nacional de Productores de Leche (Fedeleche). Both agreements include coordinating with CCFN to defend common food names in trade negotiations as a specific objective of the partnership. These agreements will facilitate a more fulsome response to threats to common names in both markets.

CCFN Educates Attaches on Common Names

CCFN jumped at the opportunity to provide crucial education on common food names to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) attachés and other Washington, DC staff during the week of July 11th. The United States posts agricultural attachés in over 100 diplomatic facilities around the world – men and women who serve as the front lines for engaging foreign governments on issues impacting U.S. agricultural trade – including how common food names are used and protected around the world.

CCFN’s Shawna Morris outlined the broad and serious implications of the EU’s GI overreach on U.S. farmers, food and beverage processors, foodservice operators and retailers. She outlined a three-step process by which FAS could help preserve fair export opportunities for all including monitoring GIs in each market and sharing those findings with Washington, engaging with relevant government officials to defend market access and maintaining persistence in addressing the issue with foreign governments.

A second session coordinated by the U.S. Dairy Export Council included a trivia contest and cheese tasting, where CCFN staff highlighted several cheeses utilizing common food names that are currently at risk due to the EU’s monopolization efforts, giving attendees a taste of what consumers around the world might lose if the EU were to succeed.

CCFN Calls Out Brazil on Inconsistencies Regarding Prior Users

When the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply recently released a list of prior users able to use common food terms recognized as GIs under the Mercosur-European Union Free Trade Agreement, CCFN wasted no time raising serious concerns with the new list. The May 2022 list omits retailers and importers in an excessively narrow interpretation of prior users. This comes in contrast with the original list published in September of 2020.

CCFN immediately requested that the U.S. government engage in direct government-to-government discussions with Brazil to revise this restrictive list to include retailers, importers, shippers and other entities. CCFN believes this revised list, if not challenged, will have wider implications and restrict trade for common name users in the region.

CCFN explained to the U.S. government that the new list repeals the prior user list developed by the Brazilian Government in 2020. CCFN contributed to the inclusion of 39 companies as part of the 2020 final list of prior users including multiple retailers and importers. No explanation has been provided as to why the 2020 list was replaced. In addition, only Brazilian companies and a limited number of Uruguayan and Argentinean companies are on the new list – and all of them producers.

In its appeal to the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, CCFN highlighted this as a clear example of the EU promoting its broader GI monopolization policy. The list is explicitly tied to the Mercosur-EU FTA, an agreement which has not yet been signed, providing no legal basis for enforcement under the local legal framework of the countries affected.