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Washington, D.C. -- The United States is claiming victory in a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute with the European Union over the use of regional food names linked to many well-known cheese, wine and meat products.
Australia and U.S., which jointly protested the European Union's protection of 600 regional food names and 4,000 wines with names like parma ham, champagne and bologna, claimed the EU discriminates against foreign producers by failing to extend the same degree of protection to competing nations' geographical names as it does its own.
The WTO's ruling upheld part of the complaint against the EU, but also said the European bloc could continue to protect its geographically named products if it allows Australia and the U.S. to market its food and wine in a similar manner.
"GMA has consistently opposed European Union efforts to impose its flawed system for protecting GIs on all WTO member countries," said Sarah Thorn, the trade group's senior director of international trade. "We applaud the WTO panel decision that clearly states that Europe's regulations for GIs discriminate against U.S. companies and products."
Thorn said the WTO's ruling "makes it clear that Europe cannot deny U.S. trademark holders the right to protect their brands and products. GMA supports the U.S. system, which strikes the right balance between protecting trademarks and GIs."
Maintaining that all agricultural products should be included in liberalized trade agreements with no exceptions for commodities such as dairy and sugar, the GMA further believes that creating a new system to protect GIs -- as proposed by the EU -- would represent a direct threat to long-held trademarks and well-known brands.
Acting U.S. trade representative Peter Allgeier also praised the WTO ruling in a statement: "We're very pleased with this decision. It's a clear win for American farmers and food processors. For years, Europe effectively had a 'Do Not Apply' sign directed at foreign producers. We believed that, under WTO rules, U.S. farmers, ranchers, and other food producers should have the same access to protection for 'geographical indications' as European food producers, and that the European system discriminated against us."
The panel also agreed with the U.S. that Europe could not, consistent with WTO rules, deny U.S. trademark owners their rights.