The Hon. Mark Vaile, MP
The Hon. Mark Vaile, MP

Media release

Wednesday, 16 March 2005 - MVT019/2005

Vaile Welcomes Win in Geographical Indications Dispute

Australian farmers and food producers have scored a significant win over the European Union on the protection of their product names, Trade Minister Mark Vaile announced today.

Australians have won the same rights to protect product names within the EU as are available to EU producers under a World Trade Organization panel report released overnight in Geneva.

Mr Vaile welcomed the WTO report on Australia's challenge to the EU's rules concerning geographical indications (GIs) for agricultural products and foodstuffs such as cheese and processed meat. GIs are a type of intellectual property that identify a product as originating from a specific geographical area. The challenge by Australia, initiated in 2003, excluded wine and spirits (which are covered by separate rules.)

"The key concern we had with the EU's rules was that they required Australia to protect all EU GIs before any Australian GIs could be protected within the EU," Mr Vaile said.

"The Panel's report makes very clear that the EU's approach is inconsistent with its WTO obligations.

"The Panel's report also makes clear that it is not up to the EU to decide whether a particular term claimed by EU producers should be protected within Australia's territory as a GI - that is an issue to be determined according to Australian law," Mr Vaile said.

Mr Vaile said while Australia had a number of concerns about some other aspects of the Panel's report, a decision had yet to be made whether to appeal these findings through the WTO's Appellate Body.

The United States also initiated a challenge to the EU's GIs regime, which was heard by the same Panel. The Panel's Report in that dispute was also released overnight in Geneva.

The panel report on Australia's challenge can be found at the WTO website.

A set of frequently asked questions are available on the DFAT website.

Contact: Richard Forbes (Vaile's office) 02 6277 7420

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