April 26, 2019

U.S. Rejects EU Attempt To Control Cheese Names

 |  By: Mike Opperman

The U.S. Special Report 301 issued April 25 by the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) rejected policies by the European Union (EU) to block the ability to use common cheese names such as fontina, gorgonzola, asiago and feta. The report states that the EU policies seek to intentionally put U.S. suppliers at disadvantage on global markets. 

U.S. dairy officials lauded the USTR actions as a way to preserve U.S. export access rights.

The report stated that the EU pressures trading partners to prevent all producers, other than those in certain regions of the EU, from using certain product names, despite the fact that these terms are common names for products produced in countries around the world. The USTR claims that the EU actions infringe on the rights of U.S. producers and imposes unwarranted market barriers to U.S. goods.

“Europe has disadvantaged the U.S. dairy industry for too long by abusing geographical indications (GI) policies,” said Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC). “We face unfair barriers around the world because of Europe.”

Vilsack urged the USTR to prioritize securing binding commitments from America’s current trading partners to prevent future GI restrictions. The market access preservation commitments secured with Mexico as part of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, he said, provide a positive precedent to build upon.

Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, also urged the Administration to take into account the lopsided dairy trade imbalance between the United States and Europe in formulating policies to tackle the EU’s predatory attacks on U.S. dairy exports.

Europe sent $1.8 billion in dairy goods to the U.S. market in 2018 but only imported $145 million of U.S. products, even though America is a major dairy supplier to the rest of the world.

“Trade is supposed to be a two-way street,” Mulhern noted. “America’s struggling U.S. dairy producers deserve a lot better than the current one-way trade relationship with the European Union whereby they sell us a billion dollars of cheese each year while erecting walls to our ability to compete head to head with them overseas.”

In recent weeks the topic of trade negotiations has surfaced between the U.S. and the EU, however the EU has so far refused to discuss any trade items related to agriculture.