May 22, 2018


Fight EU attempts to limit trade of US cheeses, NAFTA urged



US cheeses using generic names face the risk of losing the Mexican market if the EU and Mexico finalises a deal that allows only the 28-member bloc to use common cheese names, which could include parmesan and feta, among others.


According to the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), the European Union and Mexico in April reached an agreement in principle to update their 18-year-old bilateral trade agreement and announced plans to allow only the EU to use several common cheese names.


IDFA has repeatedly urged the administration to fight EU attempts to use geographical indications (GIs) protections that limit fair competition of US cheeses in Mexico, which is the largest export market for US dairy.


Last week, IDFA and other members of the Coalition for Common Food Names (CCFN) called on US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to address GIs in the modernised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).


"We implore your office to immediately engage with Mexico during NAFTA modernisation talks to address Europe's plan to undercut US producers and deny them the markets America has spent years cultivating", CCFN said in a letter to Lighthizer.


CCFN said the EU and Mexico have made clear that cheese names are among 340 GIs included in the agreement in principle, although a list of names has not been released.


'New hurdles'


"We fear that the EU-Mexico deal will reverse existing market access for some US food producers, while denying others the right to market their products in the future using generic names that have been used around the world for decades", CCFN said.


"For example, US parmesan, muenster and asiago cheeses, among others, will face new hurdles to entering the Mexican market, which is America's biggest and most important dairy export destination", it added.


CCFN said the GIs lower the value of trade commitments that Mexico has made to the US under NAFTA. It called on the US government to address the issue before US, Mexican and Canadian negotiators reach an agreement in principle to update the existing pact.


"As discussions continue, we urge you to remain steadfast in your commitment to protect existing Mexican markets, including those for the common name products targeted by this new third-party trade agreement, while looking to expand opportunities in Canada where tariffs and non-tariff barriers like the Class 7 milk pricing scheme block US sales", CCFN concluded.


Earlier, Japan made the assurance that EU won't have exclusive use of GIs covering cheeses and meats that it has proposed to Japan under a free trade agreement under negotiations.


In January the CCFN said the Japanese government had assured the continued general use for many generic cheese terms such as parmesan, romano, brie, camembert, cheddar, edam, emmental, gouda, grana, mozzarella, pecorino and provolone.