By: Bob Meyer
More than 50 U.S. Senators have sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Frohman and U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack urging them to fight efforts by the European Union to restrict the use of some names on cheese and other products.
The EU has been implementing so-called geographical indications (GIs) in bilateral trade agreements which would not allow U.S. cheesemakers for example to use names such as parmesan, feta, havarti, muenster and others. Wines are also targeted. The EU contends those names describe products from specific areas or regions and should only be used on products from those areas. The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) argues it has been U.S. products which have popularized the old-world cheeses.
The letter, coauthored by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), says the effort is nothing short of protectionist and creates barriers for a growing U.S. export market. USDEC says cheese exports have been growing an average 40 percent per year over the last five years making the U.S. the largest single-country cheese exporter in the world.
The senators asked that USTR and USDA work aggressively against the EU’s efforts to restrict commonly used cheese names because they would harm the ability of U.S. businesses to compete domestically or internationally.
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