Australia's dairy industry will continue to defend its right to call dairy products by their common food names after the Australian Government overnight announced a consultation process on a list of products that the EU wants to protect as geographical indications of origin (GIs) under an Australia-EU free trade agreement.
The Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) is deeply concerned with EU efforts to impose their trade restrictive GI regime on Australia through an FTA.
The EU wants protections for food and drink brands in its region, under a proposed free trade deal with Australia.
Were it successful, Australian feta-makers could be forced to refer to their cheese as "Australian feta" and local spirit distillers would need to avoid using the term "Scotch".Packaging might also need to be changed for some Australian products, such as mozzarella cheese, so it doesn't look too similar to European brands.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says there is no guarantee the deal will go ahead.
"We will only do with a deal with the EU if it's in Australia's national interest to do so," he told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.
"What we will do is drive the best possible bargain."The federal government will consult with industries likely to be impacted by the changes over the next three months.Senator Birmingham expects they won't be concerned about many of the 400-odd terms the EU has taken issue with - given their specificity - but will struggle with others.
"There are some that are a bit more generic of their nature, such as feta, and I think we will have to work hard, negotiate hard with the EU."
The ADIC estimates that the EU’s demand to restrict many cheese and dairy product names could put at risk local products with an aggregate sales value of more than $650 million. The potential direct impact on Australian dairy manufacturers from lost sales and increased marketing costs caused by the strict enforcement of GIs could range from a staggering $70-90 million per year in the early stages of the FTA.
The ADIC is also alarmed by the EU’s interest in extending the scope of labelling restrictions to include colours, flags, and even symbols that might evoke EU countries. The EU request even extends as far as to include the use of product names accompanied by the terms “style”, “type” and “like”, and translations of these names.
The production of many cheeses in Australia is a reflection of Australia’s rich migration history. Many of Australia’s cheese manufacturers brought their skills from Europe. They have established successful businesses in Australia, providing significant employment opportunities, particularly in rural and regional Australia.