Generic or specific? The issue stopping the free-trade agreement between the EU and Australia

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Block of feta cheese on paper on a cutting board, with basil on top

Feta, prosecco, parmesan, mozzarella (di bufala campana), champagne…
Would you believe that the names of all these famous products are the cause for the deadlock in the free-trade agreement negotiations between the EU 🇪🇺 and Australia 🇦🇺. How come?

👉 All these product names (and more) are protected designation of origin (PDO) terms in the European Union. That means goods from the region that these and many other products originate from are the only ones allowed to carry such names. For instance, only champagne from the Champagne region in France can be labelled as such.

📜 All goods identical or similar to PDO products and not from the PDO-specified geographic region cannot be called by the PDO term in the EU 🇪🇺 and (recently due to free-trade deals signed with the EU) New Zealand 🇳🇿 and Canada 🇨🇦. Alternative generic names such as “white cheese” or “sparkling wine” must then be used.

So how about Australia 🇦🇺?

⚠️ All the above names are deemed generic terms. You can then find products such as Australian feta, Australian prosecco 🍾, Australian parmesan, etc.

📝 The EU (Italy 🇮🇹, in particular) insists that Australia must respect EU geographic indications but Australia has steadfastly refused, and there’s no sign of this changing any time soon.

🛒 So if you wish to market a product that the EU otherwise requires an alternative generic name due to PDO, for greater product awareness you’re best not to use that alternative in Australia… for now.

🧀 A classic example is the product known as Danish White cheese 🇩🇰 in the EU. Prior to 2002, this was marketed worldwide as “Danish Feta”, much to the ire of the Greeks 🇬🇷, who then successfully campaigned (and upheld later appeals) to have “feta” designated as a PDO term specific to regions of Greece. However, in Australia the product is still referred to and marketed as “Danish Feta”. Mention “Danish White” and most Australians will have no idea what you’re talking about.

🛈 More details about how serious this issue is for Australia can be found in this report…

🤔 What do you think? Is the EU right to insist on the use of PDO in other countries, or is Australia correct in saying that these names are generic terms?

🔔 Follow me to find out more about Australian English and its quirks.