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EU gets tough on Australian name dropping of Feta, Gruyere

The EU argues the names are tied to a particular European region and means of production – so-called “geographic indicators” – and shouldn’t be used by outside producers.

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Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said he would conclude the deal only if it was in the national interest.

“Australians can be confident that we will drive a very hard bargain – as we always do – to achieve an overall agreement that delivers more opportunity for Australian farmers and businesses,” he said.

“The EU boasts more than 500 million consumers and, even with existing trade restrictions, it is already Australia’s third-largest export market.”

Trade negotiators are preparing to argue for grand-fathering arrangements so that current producers can retain their naming rights. They remain open to banning future farmers from using geographic indicators.

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They are also prepared to negotiate on the basis that local farmers will have to name their products “Australian Feta” but have baulked at an earlier EU suggestion that Australian producers call their products “Feta-like”.

Wines have not been included on the list and sources confirmed the government would not fold to requests for the popular sparkling Prosecco to be re-named. British products such as Scotch steaks are likely to fall off the list after Brexit, but could be included in a separate trade deal being negotiated simultaneously with the United Kingdom.

The publishing of the list is the first step towards a market access offer, expected by the end of this year. Senator Birmingham said in February he would not publish the list unless he was satisfied there had been enough progress in other areas, including greater access for beef farmers and reduced tariffs.

He is now preparing to face a new EU trade commissioner, tipped to be the EU’s current Agriculture Commissioner, Phil Hogan, in an effort to complete the free-trade agreeement by 2020 and guard against the fallout from Brexit and the US-China trade war.

In February, Mr Hogan told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age he expected the final deal to come down to six geographic indicators.

“There will be no deal between Australia and the EU unless we are able to resolve these issues,” he said.

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