EU, US face food labelling spat in TTIP talks

The EU and the US are far from an agreement on food in the TTIP talks, with geographical indications still proving to be a sticking point.

Washington and Brussels are in the process of negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a free trade agreement which will cover a number of industries and bring an estimated €74 billion to the two economies.

Food and agriculture have proven the most contentious areas in the TTIP negotiations, with opposition from civil society on both sides.

Officials from the two sides have clashed on geographical indications (GIs), which identify a foodstuff’s place of origin when it is associated with its quality.

Dacian Cioloş, the European agriculture commissioner, said at a briefing with US Secretary of State for Agriculture Tom Vilsack yesterday (17 June), “We have to explain what geographical indications are and what they are not.”

The officials are set to discuss GIs further, before concrete negotiations for a trade deal can begin.

Camembert or Camembert "de Normandie"?

US legislators have become incensed by the EU stance on the GIs, fearing that producers will not be able to sell food using their traditional name, such as Camembert cheese or Parma.

“We have to explain what the GI is in order to address some worries in the US on this,” Cioloş said.

The issue has focused on when a product’s name can be termed “generic” and when it holds quality associations with its place of origin.

“We’re not saying that no one in America can sell something called camembert cheese,” Cioloş' spokesperson, Roger Waite, told EurActiv. “With Canada, we reached a compromise agreement,” Waite said, referring to the EU-Canada trade deal agreed last year.

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