Commission open to member states’ push to protect quality foods in China

Spanish olive oil is among the products the EU countries want to protect on the Chinese market. [id-art/Shutterstock]

The European Commission will not block member states’ attempts to sue China over its use of counterfeit trademarks and has insisted a future bilateral deal with the Asian superpower will bring “significant benefits” for Europe’s quality food producers.

Brussels and Beijing agreed in June to publish a list of 200 geographical indications (GIs) – 100 from each side – that would be protected under an agreement to be signed later this year.

GIs, food products with a certified geographic origin, are a central part of the EU’s food quality schemes, offering consumers certainty over the authenticity and quality of their food, while allowing producers to command higher prices.

The EU executive said its aim in making a bilateral deal is to protect producers from unfair competition and boost “demand for high-quality products” both in the EU and in China. However, Brussels has said it will not seek to remove existing counterfeit trademarks from the Chinese market under the future bilateral agreement.

Meanwhile, a document released by the Greek ministry of economy and growth in August, revealed that eight countries (Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, Germany, Hungary and Romania) have joined forces to file a lawsuit against the Chinese producers’ use of counterfeit trademarks protected under the European GI scheme.

EU member states to take China to court over fake geographical indications

Eight member states of the European Union will take legal action against China over 25 counterfeit trademarks on the Chinese market that mislead consumers on the origin of products protected by the EU’s geographical indications.

A spokesperson for the executive told EURACTIV.com: “The Commission is confident that the future agreement will bring significant benefits to European GI producers.

“Even where there are existing trademarks, European GIs can still be protected in China because China, like the EU, allows coexistence between an earlier trademark and a later GI.”

However, the official said that the European Commission had no objection to European GI producers seeking the cancellation of counterfeit trademarks in China “as part of a normal procedure under trademark law”.

Who is driving quality in EU agri-food?

The EU’s Southern member states are the leading producers of foods certified by EU quality schemes: between them, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Greece account for 70% of the total.

China’s fast-growing middle class is seen as a vast and largely untapped future market for producers of high-quality European food. Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has regularly emphasised that opening new markets for European producers is one of his priorities.

Speaking after the announcement of the bilateral GI protection agreement, Hogan called the EU’s quality schemes a “real success story”.

“Working closely with our global trading partners such as China is a win: it benefits our farmers and agri-businesses; it develops stronger trading relationships between like-minded operators; and of course, it benefits consumers on both sides of the agreement,” the Commissioner said.

EU-China special products pact offers bright future for Europe’s exports

In June, the EU and China published a list of 200 European and Chinese geographical indications (GIs) that are protected on their respective markets, as part of a bilateral deal that should be concluded by December. EURACTIV’s partner Italia Oggi reports.

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