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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 September, 2003, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Europe fights its food corner

By Caroline Wyatt
BBC Paris Correspondent

The European Union is going into battle at the World Trade talks in Cancun this week to retain exclusive use of regional food and drink names, ranging from Champagne and Chablis to Roquefort and Reblochon.

Champagne
Champagne producers say theirs is the only real stuff
More than a quarter of the 41 products on the EU's list are French.

All are safeguarded within Europe, but have no worldwide rights.

The EU has some unlikely allies - Guatemala wants its Antigua coffee protected, and Sri Lanka its Ceylon tea.

If Europe wins the argument, France has hundreds more regional foods and wines it would like to protect

Champagne is our region - it's our soil, it's our country and real champagne is only from here
Michel Drappier
Champagne producer
In the vineyards of Champagne Drappier, where the family has been making champagne for eight generations, feelings run high about American and Russian products labelled champagne.

"Champagne is our region - it's our soil, it's our country and real champagne is only from here," says Michel Drappier of Champagne Drappier. "The consumer must know that this is the only place producing Champagne."

This summer's heat should make this year an exceptional vintage - all the more reason, say growers here, to protect the good name of Champagne around the globe.

TRADE AND GLOBALISATION
Key issues at the trade talks

And there's a huge market at stake, not just for champagne. The European Union is taking a mouth-watering list of goods to the World Trade talks to ask for global protection of place-specific names.

The French goods on the list also include Cognac and several wines.

Producers and retailers alike say there are ways for other countries to avoid using French product names for their own goods.

"During a recent trip to Brazil I discovered a very good cheese like brie - they call it "made with the brie method" and it was very good," said Dominique Richard, president of Hediard luxury food shop.

Rocquefort cheese is also on the EU's list - Latin America has been making its own, creating a real stink in France.

The feeling of the people about these 'appellations' is strictly parallel to the love they have for the product - you do everything you can for it, you try to promote it and defend it
Philippe Jachnik
French Dairy Processors' Association
If the EU succeeds this time round, the French have a much longer list of "appellations controlees" - regional trademarks - for which they want worldwide rights.

But why do they care so deeply?

"The feeling of the people about these 'appellations' is strictly parallel to the love they have for the product - you do everything you can for it, you try to promote it and defend it," says Philippe Jachnik of the French Dairy Processors' Association.

So as the old world takes on the new in Cancun, the French hope to be raising a glass to success.

To many here, this isn't about protectionism but about safe-guarding centuries of tradition and regional pride.


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