The TTIP (Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) negotiations between the United States and the European Union get down to business. During the eighth “round” of meetings, in progress in Brussels from 2 to 6 February, today was the turn of the stakeholders, who got the chance to present their requests during the Stakeholders’ Meeting.
Throughout the morning, representatives from farming trade associations, Protection consortiums and non-government bodies, both European and US, each got their say. Geographical indications were at the centre of the debate and the positions on each side of the Atlantic still seem difficult to reconcile.
Speaking for Italy was the AICIG (Association of Geographical indication Consortiums), represented by Leo Bertozzi, who reiterated that also American consumers were entitled to the clarity already guaranteed to European consumers by the EU geographical indications system, and pointed out the contradictory position of the US position, which claims the right to protect “generic” names. “But if a product is generic” – the AICIG representative underlined – “why does it need to be protected or, even to adopt the specific name of an area?”.
The representatives of the cheese consortiums for Asiago, Gorgonzola and Parmigiano Reggiano then sided with AICIG, Origin, Euro Coop, Copa-Cogeca and the many other trade associations which during the day took turns to reiterate the value and importance of the geographical indication system: “if our names have now become generic in the United States”, stated the Consortiums, “we don’t understand the need to use them so often accompanied by the Italian flag or by references to Italy”.
During the debate the proposal emerged to stimulate the creation of original brands and geographical indications also in the United States. Recognition of indications would in fact boost trade flows and dissolve debate on the “parasitical” use of Italian, or even European-sounding names and products by American producers.
Completely opposed to and irreconcilable with the EU position is the vision of the Dairy Export Council, which states it is against the so-called “grandfathering clause” and any kind of restriction regarding the use of terms which, being generic, would represent a common asset with absolute freedom of use.
“So why not trivialise our entire culture – concluded Pier Maria Saccani, Secretary General of AICIG – from DOP/IGP products right down to Italy’s architectural heritage? Perhaps the United States only want to take possession of what their history doesn’t offer. We must insist on the safeguarding of our heritage: not protecting geographical indications like Asiago, Gorgonzola, Fontina and Romano would be like not protecting the Coliseum or Saint Mark’s”.