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)”: 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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