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U.S. government secures clarity on market access rights under CAFTAU.S. government secures clarity on market access rights under CAFTA

Dairy industry commends work to secure right to use several generic cheese names.

March 4, 2016

2 Min Read
U.S. government secures clarity on market access rights under CAFTA

The dairy industry recently commended the U.S. government for its extensive work aimed at securing clarifications regarding the right to use several generic cheese names in exports to Honduras while also establishing a better model for how Central American countries can more reliably provide such information in the future.

Honduras is an important trading partner in a growing region for U.S. dairy exports. It is a member of the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). U.S. dairy exports to CAFTA partners totaled $109 million last year, with Honduras ranking second in the trade agreement region.

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) said they appreciated the Administration’s diligent work with Honduras, which this week clarified the use of threatened cheese names, including parmesan, provolone and brie. Although the results did not include assurance on the continued use of certain other common names that are currently protected in Honduras, it does provide important assurances on many common-name products.

The threat stemmed from a free trade agreement between Honduras and the European Union in which the EU secured provisions that threatened to restrict the use of numerous commonly used food names as a way to gain a trade advantage. After numerous discussions between the U.S. and Honduras, the country agreed to, among other things, clearly spell out on its official website the scope of protection of the names and create a searchable database to identify geographical indications (GIs) — the official designations that protect the unique nature of specialized foods. The database will also identify which elements of those terms are deemed to be generic. In addition, Honduras committed to other steps, such as providing similar clarifications for future GI applications.

“The dairy industry has worked closely with the Administration for several years to mitigate potential damage to our CAFTA market access opportunities arising from the Central America-EU (trade agreement),” NMPF president and chief executive officer Jim Mulhern said, adding that the U.S. Trade Representative’s "work with Honduras was particularly important, since a previous lack of easily accessible information in Honduras hurt our own efforts to determine our ability to keep using common cheese names in exports to that country.”

Tom Suber, president of USDEC, also praised this latest accomplishment while emphasizing that this was one victory in a continuing battle with Europe over GIs.

Suber added that Europe wants to use GI provisions in its trade deals to essentially "monopolize the use of food names that have long been in the public domain. We encourage USTR keep working in additional markets – both in Central America and around the globe – to preserve our ability to use these common cheese names, particularly in countries with which we have our own free trade agreements.”

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