European Parliament - Lefteris Christoforou’s Question & Answer: Defending protected designations of origin

14 June 2016 - Lefteris Christoforou – [E-004833-16] - Subject: Defending protected designations of origin:

It is being reported that, in talks with the EU regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the US is consistently refusing to countenance the inclusion in the agreement of protected designations of origin (PDOs) recognised on the European market.

However, their exclusion from the agreement would have a disastrous impact on European product quality and drive thousands of producers out of business, leaving European markets to be flooded with cheap and inferior US substitutes. The consequences for European consumers could be disastrous and irremediable.

For example, dairy products such as feta, halloumi and parmesan would be unable to compete and forced out of the market. At the same time, many other European product categories would also suffer huge losses.

The EU therefore has a fundamental duty to defend European protected designations of origin as an integral part of its policy making.

In view of this:

— Can the Commission say what action it intends to take in dealing with this issue?

— Can it give its assurance that PDO products will not be adversely affected by the TTIP agreement?

Answer given by Mr Hogan on behalf of the Commission (8 August 2016):

«The Commission confirms that its objective is to provide for enhanced protection and recognition of EU Geographical Indications (GIs) in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

For further details, the Commission would refer the Honourable Member to its answers to questions P-002810/2016[1] and E-000422/2015[2].».

[1] «The Commission is aware of the economic impact resulting from the lack of appropriate protection experienced in the U.S. market by an important number of EU quality products bearing the PDO/PGI [Protected Designation of Origin/Protected Geographical Indication] protection in the EU territory and is therefore pursuing an ambitious outcome for EU geographical indications within the framework of the ongoing negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the U.S. In order to achieve this objective, the EU is pragmatically but firmly negotiating rules that would guarantee an appropriate level of protection and an appropriate enforcement of that protection for a selection of most significant EU geographical indications in terms of EU commercial interests in the US market. The list of the selected EU geographical indications has been published on the TTIP TRADE website [http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2016/march/tradoc_154386.GIPaperAnnex1%20FINAL_REV.pdf]. The list of selected names has been established in 2013 by the Commission, in close coordination with Member States, on the basis of objective criteria such as the economic relevance of these names in the U.S marketplace. Some of the names mentioned by the Honourable Members (‘Arancia rossa di Sicilia’,"Cappero di Pantelleria, ‘Pecorino Romano’, ‘Pecorino Toscano’, ‘Pomodoro di Pachino’ and ‘Prosciutto Toscano’) are indeed included in the list, while others did not meet the criteria set above. The Commission signals that one of its objectives in these negotiations is to secure in the agreement rules that would allow the initial list of geographical indications to be expanded with the consensus of the Parties.»

[2] «There are currently almost 3 300 products bearing a protected designation of origins (PDO) or a protected geographical indication (PGI) in the EU. While it is difficult to assess the total number of jobs directly and indirectly dependent on PDO/PGIs, the Commission can provide examples of jobs directly involved in the production of some well-known EU specialities, based on data from GI holders' sources. Around 50,000 jobs are involved in the production of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, about 10 000 jobs for Gorgonzola cheese, and over 10 000 jobs for Bayerisches Bier. These figures do not take into account the number of jobs indirectly related to those names, e.g. involved in distribution and/or tourism in the areas of production.CETA ensures for a short list of 145 prominent European GIs a level of protection comparable to the protection in the EU. CETA will allow additional GIs to be added in the future. As regards the U.S., the Commission is aware of the economic impact resulting from the lack of protection experienced in this market by a number of PDO/PGI. The Commission, in the ongoing TTIP negotiations and in line with the Council negotiating directives, is looking for rules guaranteeing an appropriate level of protection and enforcement of that protection for a selection of EU GIs.In the context of the FTA with the EU, Singapore accepted to adopt a GI legislation and to introduce a GI register providing for high level of protection. This register will concern a first list of EU names, subject to national examination process, but will then be opened to any other EU GI. The examples above show that trade agreements can be powerful tools to enhance the protection of EU GIs in third countries and do not lower GI protection in the EU.».