On December 30, 2020, the European Union (EU) and China signed an agreement that aims to protect over 200 European geographical indications in the Chinese market. This move represents a significant step in strengthening the trade relationship between the two economies and marks the first-ever bilateral agreement on geographical indications that China has signed with a foreign country.
Geographical indications (GIs) are names or signs used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. In Europe, GIs are protected under the EU`s quality schemes, which include Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), and Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG). These schemes ensure that the products` authenticity and uniqueness are preserved while promoting local economies and cultural heritage.
The EU-China agreement on protection of GIs covers a wide range of products, such as wine, spirits, and agricultural products, including Italian Prosciutto di Parma, Greek Feta, and Spanish Rioja wine. Under the agreement, China will have to prevent the use of European GIs on non-authentic products and provide legal means for European rights holders to enforce their rights.
For European producers, this agreement opens up significant opportunities in the massive Chinese market, which has a growing middle class with an increasing appetite for high-quality European products. In 2019, the EU exported over €14 billion worth of agri-foods to China, making it the second-largest destination for EU agricultural exports after the United States.
On the other hand, the agreement benefits Chinese consumers by ensuring that they can trust that the products they are buying are authentic and of high quality. Moreover, it supports the promotion of local Chinese products, which can also benefit from protection under geographical indications.
The EU-China agreement on protection of GIs is an essential step towards promoting fair trade and protecting the cultural heritage of European products. Additionally, it paves the way for more bilateral agreements between the EU and China in the future, which could further strengthen their trade relationship and promote sustainable economic growth.