Camembert, Prosciutto, Cognac and Scotch Whisky are just some of the products affected, so if you produce these (or just enjoy them!) this will be of interest to you…

The European Union (EU) is one of Australia’s largest trading partners, so why do we currently have limited access to EU markets, and how can this be improved?

The answer and solution lies in a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) currently being negotiated between the Australian Government and the EU.

The FTA was discussed at a public briefing by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) held in Melbourne on 21 August 2019. The ultimate goal is to increase commercial opportunities for Australian exporters into the region.

One of the major issues in the FTA is the protection of geographical indications (GI’s). A GI is a sign used on a product that has a specific geographical origin and possesses qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. Once a GI is protected, the name may not be used except by producers who meet the rules protecting the GI.

Which products are being affected by Geographical Indicators?

A significant proportion of the proposed GI’s are in relation to foodstuffs and an extensive list has been published on the DFAT website. The proposed EU GI’s are now open for public objection and you are being encouraged to make your submission by 13 November 2019.

Some of the proposed GI’s are as follows:

Camembert de Normandie • Fontina • Gorgonzola • Kalamata • Aceto Balsamico di Modena • Prosciutto di Parma • Feta • Scotch Beef • Parmigiano Reggiano • Calvados • Cognac • Grappa • Irish cream • Scotch Whisky

It’s important to note that in some cases the EU will not be seeking protection for parts of names. For example, in the case of Camembert de Normandie, the EU would not be asking for protection of the term “Camembert”.

And if you enjoy “Prosecco” or “Vittoria”, the EU is pushing for Australia to protect these product names although they have not been included in the lists. Australia already has the existing Wine Agreement with the EU in place for these issues so they will not be part of the objection process.

What other types of protection is the EU asking for?

The EU has also requested that the GI’s be more broadly protected against a number of issues. One of these includes when that product is used as an ingredient. This could potentially mean that use of a translated term like “Parmesan”, the commonly used English equivalent to describe hard cheese from Parmigiano or cheese made in that style would be protected.

The EU is also seeking protection for GI’s where there is any misleading information in the packaging or advertising which may mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product. Wording such as “style”, “type”, “method”, “as produced in”, “imitation”, “flavour”, “like” will be under scrutiny.

Have your say by 13 November 2019

DFAT has stressed the importance of businesses (no matter how small) lodging submissions themselves on any of the proposed GI’s rather than relying on industry or interest group submissions alone so that the full impact of the objections can be recorded and appreciated.

The Government also said that it will continue to consult closely with stakeholders on the issue of GI’s and will defend Australia’s interests robustly. Full information on EU GIs and the objections process can be found here.

In addition to objections to specific terms on the lists through this public objections process, DFAT is seeking more general submissions on the impacts of the FTA throughout the negotiations. Have your say and email your submission to a-eufta@dfat.gov.au.