Tuesday, 17 February 2015

EU-US trade talks hindered by gouda cheese and cognac

While the TTIP negotiations continue, aiming at converging legal rules governing trade in the EU and in the US, certain areas raise more problems in the harmonisation process than others and could be excluded from the negotiations so that they don't halt the whole process. Political opposition against imposing new, other parties' rules is especially strong when related to food products or environmental concerns. This has been, among other, a subject of a discussion during a workshop on TTIP today at the University of Amsterdam; a workshop organized by Marija Bartl within the Access Europe research platform (Why TTIP?). Protected Geographical Indications for food and drinks, which guard a certain quality and origin of European products, such as gouda cheese or cognac, are not something that the Member States could easily relinquish in the trade negotiations. The origin rules are perceived to protect European consumers from unfair commercial practices. This may prove problematic for the US where these restrictions do not apply and e.g. gouda cheese could have a different connotation for American consumers than for European ones ('generic' name). Changing the existing default in one of the countries is likely, at least temporarily, to confuse consumers and may be tricky to agree on. Therefore, it could be an idea to discuss harmonisation of the origin labels separately from other issues of the TTIP. (Opinion divided over protected food names in EU-US trade talks)

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