Time to Say Local Cheese and Smile at Geographical Indications of Origin? International Trade and Local Development in the United States
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In this Article, I offer some considerations on a possible compromising solution for the controversy between the European Union (EU) and the United States (U.S.) on the regulation of geographical indications of origin (GIs) as part of the negotiations in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Notably, I advocate that the EU and the U.S. consider adopting a solution similar to that adopted in the Canada and European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). In particular, I note that, even though CETA accepted several of the EU's requests to claw-back names that were not previously protected in Canada, it also includes important exceptions to balance the effect of this claw-back process with respect to several (highly contested) names at issue. Thus, the solution adopted in CETA represents a win-win solution for Canada and the EU, and a similar solution could resolve the GI controversy in the TTIP. My position in this Article is that, far from being just an "EU thing," an appropriate level of GI protection can promote local businesses, high(er) quality products, and more accurate consumer information about products everywhere, including in the U.S. Notably, a rigorous system of GI protection-one that is based on products grown and manufactured locally and where geographical names are protected against misuse from parties operating outside the geographical areas-would provide more accurate product information to U.S. consumers and could motivate U.S. producers to invest in and maintain high(er) quality local products. In turn, this could lead to more innovation in the U.S. food and agricultural sectors and higher quality products for U.S. consumers. U.S. negotiators do not need to look outside the U.S. to prove the validity of this argument. Instead, they can simply refer to the protection that the U.S. has historically granted to appellations of origin for U.S.-produced wines. Wines produced in Napa, Sonoma, and over thirty U.S. geographical areas are protected under sui generis protection, are well known as high quality products, and are successfully sold worldwide. Thus, the current opposition of certain special interest groups should not deter U.S. negotiators from pursuing a CETA-type solution to resolve the GI controversy between the U.S. and the EU in the TTIP, as this solution is desirable and would benefit in the long term both U.S. producers and U.S. consumers.
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