Cheese wedges.
October 8, 2018

Cheese Makers Praise USMCA Deal for Protecting Common Food Names

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

Cheese makers and other companies that produce food that bear generic food names such as “mozzarella,” “cheddar,” “provolone” and others are praising the U.S., Mexico and Canada Agreement (USMCA) because it protects these common names for the first time in a major trade agreement.


Known as geographical indications (GI), these generic names have been carved out in other agreements the European Union has made with Canada, Mexico and some Asian countries. Doing so would prohibit U.S. companies from marketing and exporting products under these names.


USMCA establishes a non-exhaustive list of commonly-used cheese names that may not be restricted by Mexico, says Jaime Castaneda, executive director of the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN).  Moving forward, both Mexico and Canada have agreed to adopt GI parameters that make it more difficult for any country to register new GIs that are common food names, he says. Common food name users will also be able to challenge GI applications.


“The U.S. Administration demonstrated great leadership in pushing forward many key concepts of GI policy, which are of benefit to consumers and producers throughout North America…,” says Castaneda.


“These explicit considerations safeguarding generic terms are essential,” adds Errico Auricchio, CCFN chairman and president of BelGioioso Cheese. That’s important because the “European Union continues to move the lines on which cheeses, meats, wines and other products are fair game when it comes to abusing GI policies and monopolizing common names and terms,” he says.


But USMCA wasn’t a total win. The Mexican government has given up a several highly used common names to Europe within the Mexico-EU free trade agreement. “We continue to work with the U.S. government and others to ensure that current trade to Mexico is minimally affected,” says Castaneda.

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