The European Union (EU) and China signed a bilateral agreement to protect geographical indications (GI) on Monday.
GI is a label used for products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or reputation that are due to that origin, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization. A GI right enables those who have the right to use the indication to prevent its use by a third party whose product does not conform to the applicable standards.
“The EU-China GI agreement is a landmark treaty between the European Union and the People’s Republic of China,” a EU statement said. “It is a concrete example of cooperation between two parties and reflects openness and adherence to international rules as a basis for trade relations.”
The agreement will protect 100 European GIs and as many Chinese GIs in the EU from usurpation and imitation.
The EU list of GIs to be protected in China includes iconic GI products such as Cava, Champagne, Feta, Irish whiskey, Münchener Bier, Ouzo, Polska Wódka, Porto, Prosciutto di Parma and Queso Manchego.
Among the Chinese GI products, the list includes for example Pixian Dou Ban (Pixian Bean Paste), Anji Bai Cha (Anji White Tea), Panjin Da Mi (Panjin rice) and Anqiu Da Jiang (Anqiu Ginger).
The agreement was signed by Chinese Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan, German ambassador to China Ge Ce and EU ambassador to China Yu Bai.
EU-China cooperation on this matter started in 2006 and resulted in the protection of 10 GI names on both sides in 2012. This initial agreement was the groundwork for today’s cooperation. At the end of 2019, China and the EU announced the conclusion of the talks.
The deal is expected to enter into force in 2021. Within four years after its entry into force, the scope of the agreement will expand to cover an additional 175 GI names from both sides.
“I am proud to see this agreement getting one step closer to its entry into force, reflecting our commitment to work closely with our global trading partners such as China,” said Janusz Wojciechowski, agriculture and rural development commissioner.
He added that the GI agreement also helps protect authenticity and preserve the reputation of European products, while also strengthening the EU’s trade relationship with China, benefiting EU’s agri-food sector.
The Chinese market has high-growth potential for European food and drinks, according to the EU. In 2019, China was the third destination for EU agri-food products, reaching 117 billion yuan (€14.5 billion), according to the EU. China is also the second destination for EU exports of GI-protected products, accounting for 9% by value, including wines, agri-food products and spirits.
“Cooperation between EU and China in new areas are expanding, such as digitalization and high-end service industries, though European companies were complaining about the Chinese market, such as market access, level playing field, labor rights protection, etc.,” said Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at Renmin University.
“The agreement can explore more trade and investment potential between China and Europe and also promotes globalization.”