Washington--First it was the stink about common cheese names, now it's the baloney about "bologna," "black forest ham" and the names of other meats that the European Union says are "geographical indicators" and can only be appropriately displayed on products made in certain areas of Europe.
Earlier this month, more than 50 senators sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging them to defend common meat names, especially in negotiations with the EU on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
"This trade barrier is of great concern to meat and other food manufacturers in our states," the senators wrote in the Farm Bureau-supported letter. "We urge you to continue to push back against the EU's efforts to restrict our meat exports, particularly to nations with which we already have free trade agreements."
The EU's recently implemented FTA with countries in Central America includes provisions that restrict the use of "bologna," shutting down an export opportunity opened by the U.S.'s own FTA with those countries. Similar trade barriers are being imposed in other parts of Latin America and are also under discussion in many Asian countries negotiating with the EU.
European GIs encompass many food and beverage categories, threatening many areas of food trade worldwide with the EU's unfair claims to the exclusive use of common food names and even common-place terms such as "classic," "ruby" and "chateau."
The Consortium for Common Food Names, of which Farm Bureau is a member, supports the goal of ensuring that legitimate GIs like Idaho Potatoes and Parmigiano Reggiano are appropriately protected. However, overly restrictive GIs for meats could hit smaller U.S. businesses particularly hard, since they often specialize in artisan and other specialty meat products.