New Zealand is currently negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU – a key part of which deals with the registration and use of geographical indications (GI’s) for wines and spirits, beers and foodstuffs. If agreement cannot be reached on the GI’s the likelihood of an FTA is low.
The EU has asked that we change our laws to protect 2,200 of its existing GIs for the exclusive use by EU producers. The protection sought is far-reaching, for instance the EU wants not just to stop use of a name like ‘FETA’, but also any name which evokes a GI, trades on the reputation of a GI, is a translation/transliteration/transcription of a GI, or uses ‘-style’ or ‘type’ (so ‘Feta-style’ cheese is a no-no).
WHAT THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE NEEDS
To improve its bargaining position MFAT requires information from traders who would be adversely affected by this law change. Specifically, MFAT wants traders to provide evidence of when they started using any proposed GI’s, how long they have been using such GI’s for, and what economic impact will the removal of being able to use GI’s have on their business.
Once in place, the GI’s will be permanent. They will be put in place by legislation, with no involvement by IPONZ. There will be no opposition process, and no cancellation process (although NZ is arguing for a cancellation process). The time to voice any objections is therefore now.
MAKING A SUBMISSION
The first round of consultation on GI’s closed in March 2019. The second and current round of consultation closes at 5pm on 27 March 2020.