Australia-EU free trade deal stumbles over product names

Australia-EU free trade agreement stumbles over product names


Australia on Thursday threatened to pull out of a free trade deal with the European Union which, as it stands, does not allow its cheese, wine and charcuterie producers to use controlled designations of origin. 

It has been five years since negotiations for a trade agreement began between the EU and the island continent. But the names of certain products, cheese in particular, continue to be debated to the point of jeopardizing the agreement today.

As part of these negotiations, the European Union has thus submitted to Australia a list of more than 400 products associated with its territories that it wishes to protect, such as feta cheese, Parma ham or Irish spirits.

From his point of view, the use of the term “roquefort” should be reserved for sheep's milk cheeses made around the eponymous French village. And only Dutch producers should be able to claim the name “gouda”, a cheese made in the Netherlands.

Requirements to which Canberra refuses to give in, despite all the commercial advantages that this agreement would offer it .

Australia's Agriculture Minister Murray Watt justified his country's position by saying it was a “sensitive” issue for Australia.

“This is not just a sensitive issue for European producers, it is also a sensitive issue for Australian producers,” he told national broadcaster ABC.

“After the Second World War, Australia experienced a large wave of immigration from Europe,” said Mr Watt. “Our producers have brought their products back from their home countries and made them here.”

The minister said that if “Australia can't get a good deal, better not conclude at all”, adding however that negotiations with the EU were continuing.

Australia would like in particular that the signing of this trade agreement lead to a reduction in customs duties applied at the borders of the EU, which affect its agricultural exports in particular.

For the EU, the agreement would allow it to reduce its dependence on imports from certain countries, first and foremost Russia.