USTR’s Trade Report: GI Misuse a Priority Barrier to U.S. Food Exports

December 8th, 2021

In a testament to years of CCFN advocacy efforts to elevate the issue of GI abuse to U.S. government officials, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative highlighted the issue in its annual National Trade Estimate (NTE) report on tariff and non-tariff barriers to U.S. exports. The issue of common names was included in USTR’s press statement on the report, with the agency viewing the issue as a priority concern.

The comprehensive 570-page NTE report, released in late March 2021, captures the broad range of tariff and non-tariff barriers to U.S. goods and services exports put in place by countries around the world. Restrictions on the use of common food names was cited as a priority trade impediment that American producers face when seeking to export their generically named foods and beverages.

The European Union (EU) has been, and continues to be, a particularly bad actor with regard to the misuse of GI protections. USTR noted that the “U.S. remains highly troubled by the EU’s overbroad protection of GIs, which adversely impact both protections of U.S. trademarks and market access for U.S. products that use common names in the EU and third country markets.”

“USTR’s recognition of GI misuse as a means of confiscating market share is an important step toward addressing this problem,” said Jaime Castaneda, CCFN Executive Director. “We are encouraged that CCFN members’ persistent work alongside the U.S. government on this issue has elevated the concerns surrounding GI abuse from a relatively obscure issue just a decade ago to a priority for the agency.”

“It is imperative that USTR and its interagency partners work to ensure common names are not further restricted by the EU’s blatant attempts at monopolizing generic terms that consumers around the world have come to know and love,” Castaneda said.

CCFN is continuing to work with USTR to build on the precedent set in the recent U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) of including in all U.S. trade deals a list of common food names (e.g., in the case of USMCA, cheese names) that will be protected in perpetuity from countries imposing GI restrictions on them.