The EU-China Agreement on Geographical Indications, an important step in the bilateral relationship

 On 6 November 2019, the negotiations on a Geographical Indications (GIs) Agreement between the EU and China were concluded in Beijing, 9 years after the negotiations were launched. On 20 July 2020, the Council adopted the decision on the signing of the above agreement. In accordance with Article 218(6) TFEU, the consent of the EP is needed in order for the Council to adopt a decision concluding the Agreement. INTA coordinators decided that a motion for resolution should accompany the consent.

The agreement can be regarded as the first significant agreement between the EU and China on a trade-related issue. Therefore, it represents an important step in the bilateral relationship. The EU is globally reputed for the production of GIs, which are high value and quality agri-food products. Today many EU GIs are faced with challenges in China, causing significant economic losses for EU producers. This agreement allows for the protection of our famous and valuable EU GIs in the Chinese market against counterfeits, imitation and usurpation. In addition to the badly needed protection that this agreement would bring to the European agricultural sector, it also sends a strong political message to the world that the EU and China are able to reach agreement on bilateral trade deals and deliver on bilateral commitments when common interests are well taken into account.

Concretely, under the deal, in a first phase, direct protection through the agreement of a list of 100 EU GIs and 100 Chinese GIs will be ensured as from the entry into force of the agreement.  In a second phase, within four years, an additional 175 GI names both from the EU and China will be protected under the Agreement. These names will have to follow the same registration procedure as the 100 names already covered by the agreement. The agreement foresees the possibility to extend the scope after its entry into force to other product classes currently not covered under EU legislation, and in particular handicrafts. The listed GIs will benefit from a very high level of protection going beyond the offered under the TRIPS agreement, both foodstuffs but also for wines and spirits. Therefore, the agreement is clearly in the interest of European producers and exporters.

I want to emphasize the significance of effective implementation and proper enforcement; we should also keep in mind questions of compatibility with the US-China ‘Phase 1’ deal. I believe that the INTA committee’s determination to monitor and scrutinize the correct application of the Agreement will make an important difference towards the effectiveness of the deal. Linked to this, I want to stress the importance of GIs within the wider intellectual property rights (IPR) discussion and highlight that it is vital to accord attention to efforts directed at fighting counterfeit products.