Agreement with China: what is a Protected Geographical Indication?

Agreement with China: what is a Protected Geographical Indication?

Emmanuel Macron announced that he had reached an agreement on Protected Geographical Indications during his trip to China. What is this label and how does it protect French and European terroir?

During the , Emmanuel Macron announced the signing of an agreement on the protection of protected geographical indications (PGI) between Beijing and the European Union. What is this device and how can its recognition by China contribute to better protection of French local products?

We are going to sign in Beijing what we launched last March with Jean-Claude Juncker and Angela Merkel. This agreement on geographical indications is a long-awaited agreement“, declared the French President during a meeting with representatives of French and German companies in Shanghai, reports Reuters.

The protected geographical indication (PGI) identifies an agricultural product whose quality, reputation or other characteristics are linked to its geographical origin. This label applies to the agricultural, agri-food and wine-growing sectors. 140 agri-food PGIs and 74 wine PGIs, representing 3.7 billion euros in turnover, are registered in France.

“Producers can only continue to produce a diverse range of quality products if they [sont] able to inform (…) consumers about the quality of their products”

Regulation on quality systems for agricultural products

As explained by the Parliament and the European Council in the regulation relating to this label, the PGI aims to protect products from European terroirs, pledges of “competitiveness” and of “conservation of cultural and gastronomic heritage” from the continent. As stated by the European legislator, “Producers can only continue to produce a diverse range of quality products if they [sont] able to inform (…) consumers about the quality of their products“.

A guarantee of quality recognized in the European Union

To qualify for obtaining this official logo linked to origin and quality, at least one step, among the production, processing or development of this product, must take place in this delimited geographical area. This is what differentiates the IGP from the label of controlled designation of origin (AOC), which requires that all the stages take place in the territory defined by the specifications.

The PGI is linked to know-how. It is not created, it consecrates an existing production and therefore confers on it protection at national and Community level. Like the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOP), the PGI therefore protects the name of the product throughout the European Union.

Agreement in principle on 26 PGIs

According to information provided by the Élysée, the agreement concerns 26 French IGPs: Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Chablis, Champagne, Graves (Graves de Vayres), Médoc, Saint-Émilion, Haut-Médoc, Alsace, Côtes du Rhône, Côtes de Provence, Margaux, Pays d’Oc, Pauillac, Pessac-Léognan, Pomerol, Languedoc (Coteaux du Languedoc), Côtes du Roussillon, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Calvados, Cognac, Armagnac, Prunes from Agen-Pruneaux of Agen semi-cooked, Comté and Roquefort. Finally, Juniper is an appellation shared with the Netherlands and Germany. In the words of the President of the Republic, reported by AFP, the agreement “allows to promote trade and exchanges by protecting our brands, our know-how”.

These products will be able to benefit from protection when entering a Chinese market known for its counterfeits. They will be added to the ten European geographical indications already recognized by Beijing – including Comté, Roquefort, Agen prunes and Parma ham – as well as 45 Bordeaux wine appellations. Additional protection for French exports, the agri-food sector representing 11% of exports to China according to customs.

For several months, the communist government has communicated its desire to facilitate access to its middle class of more than 400 million consumers. Under pressure from the Americans, Xi Jinping has pledged to better respect the intellectual property of his trading partners, whether it is a question of computer technologies or agricultural know-how.

Enabling redress against counterfeiting in China

The agreement will protect French local products against counterfeits, as was the case in 2014, when a Chinese entrepreneur registered the trademark. In 2017, the Union of Calissons Manufacturers of Aix-en-Provence succeeded in having the marketing of this product banned, at the cost of an extremely costly legal battle. Thanks to the recognition of the 26 IGP labels by the authorities of the Middle Empire, an appeal will now be possible more quickly.

Beyond the bilateral relationship between China and the European Union, this agreement is a victory for the European Union. According to Emmanuel Macron, the signing of this agreement demonstrates that “we know how to realistically build a positive business agenda“, he declared during a press conference on Monday. It will perhaps influence future negotiations with the United States, which still refuses to recognize these geographical indications, to which they prefer the notion of trademark. The recognition of geographical indications is also at the center of lively debates within the WTO, within the framework of the Doha round of negotiations aimed at in-depth reform of the international trading system.

See also – Is Macron right to go to China?