On 2 June 2017 (see the joint communication here and EU Commission’s press release here), EU and China agreed to reciprocally enhance protection of geographical indications (“GIs”) and to publish a list of 100 European and 100 Chinese GIs that will be considered for benefiting from a new bilateral agreement.
The list of 100 EU GIs (here) includes food products, wines and spirits. 21 EU GIs were already registered locally in China via direct application and will nevertheless be attached to the future agreement. This follows the “10 plus 10” project that in 2012 experimented granting a reciprocal protection to 10 EU and Chinese renowned GIs (here).
The negotiation of the bilateral agreement on reciprocal GIs’ protection started in 2010 and is expected to be concluded in 2017. The recent 19th EU – China Summit (here) has pushed to accelerate works. The publication of each on list of GIs for opposition is thus intended as a way to speed up the finalization of the pending negotiations. Interested parties have now two months for presenting comments to EU and Chinese authorities.
The aim of the agreement is enhancing GIs protection on a mutual basis with the hope of positively influence rural development, spreading local culture and traditions on both sides, and – most importantly – to increase consumers’ awareness and provide new tools for protecting national GIs.
Centrality of GIs in the EU framework is known (though sometimes leads to excessive registrations in terms of figures: the EU Commission counted over 3300 EU names registered plus further 1250 non-EU names registered in the EU GI system – is this really necessary for EU consumers?). And, the Commission estimated the market for EU GIs in EUR 54.3 billion, accounting for 15% of total EU food and drinks exports.
Chinese market is of course one of the largest and is important developing the demand for EU products there. On the other hand, China has a number of local GIs, mostly unknown to EU consumers, that China hopes can be spread in the EU market.
It is known that bilateral agreements are the main tool to extend EU GIs’ protection in other territories, and the new agreement is welcomed. Particular attention shall however be given to enforcing mechanisms (often perceived as the main problem in China, though efforts for developments are in course – see for instance here). Let’s see the next steps.