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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 March, 2005, 18:42 GMT
WTO ruling sparks rival claims
Florida oranges
Florida oranges could get special rights under WTO ruling
Both sides in a dispute over whether food producers can use a geographic name - even if they make or grow their food elsewhere - have claimed victory.

A US ham producer might want to use the Parma ham name to denote a particular style of ham rather than the fact it was from Parma, Italy.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) announced its ruling on Tuesday.

The same level of protection given to European Union food names was extended to products from non-EU countries.

Farmers in favour

The trade fight began when the US and Australia complained that the EU was discriminating against them by not allowing them the right to use "geographical indications" on their products.

The WTO said that although some parts of Brussels's current rules were flawed, it would maintain the system of protection for foods associated with a particular EU region, such as Roquefort cheese from an area of southern France, or Madeira wine from the Portuguese island of Madeira.

The WTO ruling said Brussels was not guilty of wide-ranging breaches.

Acting US trade representative Peter Allgeier said: "It's a clear win for American farmers and food processors. For years, Europe effectively had a 'Do Not Apply' sign directed at foreign producers.

"We believe that, under WTO rules, US farmers, ranchers, and other food producers should have the same access to protection for 'geographical indications' as European food producers, and that the European system discriminated against us," Mr Allgeier was quoted as saying by Associated Press.

Australia also welcomed the ruling.

"It is rare in WTO disputes for either party to win on all claims," the country's mission to WTO in Geneva said in a statement.

The EU system lists 700 food products.

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Madelson said the WTO decision would help the EU "ensure wider recognition of geographical indications".

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