Invitation to consult about geographical indication protection in EU-NZ free trade agreement

Article  \  24 Jan 2019

The New Zealand Government is negotiating a free trade deal with the EU. As part of the agreement, New Zealand has been asked to recognise geographical indications protected in the EU. There is an opportunity for New Zealanders to comment on the EU’s list, and to nominate names for similar recognition in the EU.

What is a geographical indication?

A geographical indication (GI) is a name that identifies a product has originated from a particular geographical location that provides it with a certain quality, reputation, or other characteristic associated with that location. For example, a GI that many people are familiar with is ‘Champagne’, and people know the name can only be used on sparkling wine that has been produced in the Champagne region in France.

Currently, New Zealand law allows for the registration of local or international GIs relating to wines or spirits. For example, ‘Central Otago’ is registered as a GI for wine in New Zealand, and it can only be used on wine that has been produced in this region.  

Opportunity to nominate names to be considered as New Zealand GIs

The EU recognises GIs for a much broader range of goods, and the list of GIs put forward for recognition in New Zealand covers wines, spirits, and food products. In response to the EU’s request for recognition of its GIs, the New Zealand Government is looking to put forward a list of New Zealand GIs and this list could go further than what is currently provided for under New Zealand law.

This is an opportunity to have names for New Zealand meat, dairy, seafood, fruit and vegetables recognised and afforded protection, if the name indicates a particular quality, reputation, or other characteristic that is  associated with a location in New Zealand. We could see a name such as ‘Bluff Oysters’ being recognised as a GI for the first time.

Industry bodies are likely to lead the charge on proposing GIs, and this has the potential to benefit all primary producers.

Perhaps Māori iwi and hapū could look to nominate te reo names of seafood, plants, and taonga, that have a certain quality, reputation, or other characteristic associated with New Zealand for consideration as GIs. Abalone can be harvested in many countries, but should it be called ‘pāua’ if it is not from New Zealand?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) is seeking nominations for the list of New Zealand GIs that will be put forward in negotiations. The deadline for making nominationsis 19 March 2019, and we encourage you to get in touch with MFAT before this date.

Invitation to comment on the EU’s list

MFAT is also encouraging New Zealand wine, spirits, agricultural, aquaculture, food producers, and any other interested parties, to make submissions if the protection of a name on the EU list of GIs may negatively impact them.

The EU’s GI list includes several varieties of cheese including Gruyere, Roquefort, and Gorgonzola. The list also includes names for ham, beer, olive oil, fruit, vegetables and even essential oils. You can follow these links to see the full list of EU GIs set out in three parts: Foodstuffs, Wines, and Spirits.

Some of the GIs the EU wants to have recognised will be currently used on the packaging of products made in New Zealand.

The EU is seeking to have its GIs protected against any use in New Zealand on products that do not originate from within the EU, and are not produced according to the relevant EU product specification. If the trade deal goes ahead and the New Zealand Government agrees to recognise the GIs the EU has proposed, then New Zealand producers may not be able to use these terms on their products.

If the protection of a name on the EU list of GIs may negatively impact you, then you should consider providing MFAT with a substantiated objection before the 19 March 2019 deadline.

In summary, the proposal to recognise GIs more widely could both benefit and hinder New Zealand producers. Although some producers may no longer be able to continue to use EU GI terms to describe their New Zealand made products of a similar style, those same producers could reap the benefits of obtaining protection for names uniquely associated with New Zealand.