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Last Updated: Friday, 19 November, 2004, 17:18 GMT
EU hopeful of food name victory
Champagne is one name the EU wants protected
The European Commission cannot start celebrating just yet
The European Commission has said it is confident the World Trade Organization (WTO) will find in favour of its system of protecting certain food names.

Its comments came as the WTO continues to determine whether or not to back the exclusivity of regional foods such as Champagne and Parma ham within the EU.

In Europe such items can only use these names if they are made in those areas.

But the US and Australia want its firms to have the right to use such names on their products on sale in Europe.

They claim that such names as Parma are today generic, and that producers should be able to use the name Parma for any ham of that style.

Although the WTO has yet to publish its final conclusion, the European Commission said it was making its comments to rebut earlier reports that the WTO had found against Europe.

Trade wars

The matter was brought to the WTO by the US and Australia.

As an argument against the European Union position, they have complained that while the EU protects its own geographical appellations for food and drink, it does not offer the same privilege for imported goods such as Florida oranges or Idaho potatoes.

Not so, insisted EU trade spokeswoman Arancha Gonzalez, pointing out that the EU would be willing to grant such protection to outsiders, but that no one had ever applied for it.

"Since nobody has tested it, we cannot prove whether or not we would have done it," she said.

Ms Gonzalez added that the EU "would be more than happy" to clarify the legislation to explicitly allow third countries to register their names in the EU "because that only goes in the direction of strengthening the system".


The WTO's final decision could be months away.

"Acceptance by the WTO that the EU system is compatible with WTO rules cannot but strengthen our stance, which we will continue to fight in the WTO," said Ms Gonzalez.

On a global basis, the EU can only call on the goodwill of foreign companies that they do not use any of its protected regional names or appellation controls.

Italy's Parma ham makers currently have to change the name of their product for the Canadian market because a Canadian meat manufacturer has already trademarked the work 'Parma'.

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