Stealing common words

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is prepar­ing a list of 35 com­mon food names such as “parme­san” and “feta” whose use it wants banned through­out the world except when applied to Euro­pean prod­ucts. It’s an attempt to fur­ther pro­tect its agri­cul­tur­al industries—at the expense of devel­op­ing coun­tries.
The “Finan­cial Times(link to the FT story)”:http://search.ft.com/search/article.html?id=030725000166 reports that the EU is prepar­ing a so-called ‘claw-back’ list of com­mon words includ­ing the names of sev­er­al cheese types made for many decades all over the world. The EU has reg­is­tered these names on its own ter­ri­to­ry as pro­tect­ed ‘geo­graph­i­cal indi­ca­tions[⇒ relat­ed sto­ry]’ (GIs) and it wants an agree­ment in the World Trade Orga­ni­za­tion that every oth­er coun­try should also pro­hib­it their use, except on prod­ucts import­ed from Europe. The demand is a smoke­screen, designed in part to divert atten­tion from the dam­age caused in world food mar­kets by Europe’s use of export sub­si­dies[⇒ relat­ed sto­ry] and mas­sive bor­der bar­ri­ers to pro­tect its high-paid farm­ers. When the objec­tives of the nego­ti­a­tions were agreed at Doha (Qatar) in late 2001, oth­er WTO mem­bers were not impressed by this EU claim. All Mem­bers are com­mit­ed to pro­tect­ing GI’s but not to the extent of extin­guish­ing gener­ic terms or exist­ing trade­marks. The the Com­mis­sion sees some tac­ti­cal advan­tage, nonethe­less, in con­tin­u­ing to throw irrel­e­vant issues into the ring of the agri­cul­ture nego­ti­a­tions. It appar­ent­ly had no wish to dis­guise its provoca­tive tac­tics from the FT. bq. [The names have been select­ed] on the basis of the fact that, in many third coun­tries, they are claimed to be gener­ic terms or/and have been reg­is­tered as trade­marks by local pro­duc­ers If the EU suc­ceeds in its ambi­tion to ban the use of these com­mon names, it will be up to the gov­ern­ments of WTO Mem­ber countries—most of whom are devel­op­ing countries—to pro­tect the rights of the pri­vate Euro­pean indus­try asso­ci­a­tions that ‘own’ these terms in Europe. In effect, the EU is ask­ing for a free ride for rich farm­ers and proces­sors on the backs of the gov­ern­ments of poor coun­tries. Gov­ern­ments will be oblig­ed to set up sur­veilance and enforce­ment mea­sures to police the use of these com­mon names: hard­ly a high pri­or­i­ty when you’re strug­gling to feed the pop­u­la­tion. The EU has a list of about 700 such names that it has reg­is­tered in Europe and for which it claims glob­al pro­tec­tion. It’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine a more impe­ri­ous pol­i­cy on the part of Europe. Foot­note: As it turns out, some EU memem­ber coun­tries are unhap­py about the Com­mis­sion pro­pos­als. The Greek gov­ern­ment is report­ed to be ‘fum­ing’ about the omis­sion of “kala­ma­ta” (olives) and “ouzo” from the list. Den­mark and the UK want names of their nation­al prod­ucts such as ‘stil­ton’ and ‘dan­blu’ dropped from the list.

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