Ag trade negotiations are never easy, especially when dealing with the European Union (EU), but a battle over what food is called may sink any hope of a trans-Atlantic trade deal. The latest barrier to free trade with the EU involves what certain food items are called. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says this issue is called Geographic Indicator, “There is an effort on the part of some to take a process that has created a certain product and take that process and use it to protect the name that has historically been connected to the process from being used by others.” For example, only yogurt made in Greece could be called Greek Yogurt.
Vilsack told reporters after meeting with EU officials that the US trademark system could not accommodate this kind of approach and that an entire new system of trademarks would need to be devised, “You would have to create a system that protects the ability to market your product as unique but not denying someone the ability to produce a similar product and market it accordingly.” Almost all other major food exporting countries are opposed to any change in WTO regulations of GIs. The European Union continues to call for a new GI policy because such a change would help EU agriculture make a desired transition away from reliance on commodity-based income supports.
US negotiators have rejected the EU demand, and several bills have been introduced in Congress that would prevent such a classification system. Vilsack said, if the EU sticks to its position, it could likely sink the entire trade deal. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) is an ambitious, comprehensive, and high-standard trade and investment agreement being negotiated between the United States and the European Union.