EU gets tough on Australian name dropping of Feta, Gruyere

Eryk Bagshaw
Australian Feta producers face being forced to drop the name of their product.
Australian Feta producers face being forced to drop the name of their product.  Photo: Jon Reid

Australian producers of Feta, Gruyere and Scotch steaks face being barred from using the names of their products under a list of demands made by the European Union as part of a $100 billion trade deal.

The Morrison government will on Tuesday release the list of names the EU wants banned and prepare itself for a lobbying blitz from industry as it moves into the final stages of negotiations.

The deal, which is aimed at shoring up Australia's relationship with the EU after Brexit, is likely to face stiff opposition from primary producers, who fear their markets at home and abroad will shrink without name recognition.

The 236 names facing the chop include Manchego, Asiago, Parmigiano Reggiano, Taleggio and Gorgonzola cheeses. The deli-meat Prosciutto di Parma and the liquor Grappa have also been singled out.

The EU argues the names are tied to a particular European region and means of production - so-called "geographic indicators" - and shouldn't be used by outside producers.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said he would conclude the deal only if it was in the national interest.

"Australians can be confident that we will drive a very hard bargain – as we always do – to achieve an overall agreement that delivers more opportunity for Australian farmers and businesses," he said.

"The EU boasts more than 500 million consumers and, even with existing trade restrictions, it is already Australia's third-largest export market."

Trade negotiators are preparing to argue for grand-fathering arrangements so that current producers can retain their naming rights. They remain open to banning future farmers from using geographic indicators.

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They are also prepared to negotiate on the basis that local farmers will have to name their products "Australian Feta" but have baulked at an earlier EU suggestion that Australian producers call their products "Feta-like".

Wines have not been included on the list and sources confirmed the government would not fold to requests for the popular sparkling Prosecco to be re-named. British products such as Scotch steaks are likely to fall off the list after Brexit, but could be included in a separate trade deal being negotiated simultaneously with the United Kingdom.

The publishing of the list is the first step towards a market access offer, expected by the end of this year. Senator Birmingham said in February he would not publish the list unless he was satisfied there had been enough progress in other areas, including greater access for beef farmers and reduced tariffs.

He is now preparing to face a new EU trade commissioner, tipped to be the EU's current Agriculture Commissioner, Phil Hogan, in an effort to complete the free-trade agreeement by 2020 and guard against the fallout from Brexit and the US-China trade war.

In February, Mr Hogan said he expected the final deal to come down to six geographic indicators.

"There will be no deal between Australia and the EU unless we are able to resolve these issues," he said.