Australia, EU locked in ‘feta’ trade fight

Local product naming and access for Australian agriculture products ended free trade negotiations with the EU.

Local product naming and access for Australian agriculture products ended free trade negotiations with the EU. Photo: Getty/TND

Australia is locked in a high-stakes food fight with Europe over certain local products using the names Prosecco for wine and feta for cheese.

Speaking from Berlin where free trade agreement talks with the European Union are taking place, Agricultural Minister Murray Watt says he’s “digging in” over the rights to use so-called geographical indicators on Australian produce.

But securing a deal might prove tough work, with the EU indicating it’s a “red-line” issue for them too.

“I’ve been speaking to a number of European agriculture ministers, and they’ve raised that with me … it’s certainly a concern to them,” Senator Watt told ABC Radio on Friday.

“But we’ve been really making the point as well that those terms mean a lot to Australian producers as well.

“You’ve probably seen stories about European migrants to Australia who brought Prosecco wine vines with them and have been manufacturing those sorts of products for a long time under that name.”

Senator Watt said Australia would keep battling to be able to use the terms, while also seeking to secure a trade deal that would bring plenty of other benefits to the nation.

“While there is a lot of attention on the [geographical indicators] issue … we also need to think about the huge gains that can be gained in other products like beef, sheep, everything from nuts, to dairy products to wines, all sorts of things that Australia stands to gain from being able to export more to the EU,” he said.

The minister also indicated Australia’s free trade agreement with the UK could still come into effect in the first quarter of this year, despite Britain’s leadership chaos delaying their ability to ratify the deal.

“Even the British acknowledge some of the instability they’ve had within their political system over the last few months has impacted on things like this legislation,” Senator Watt said.

“I was very pleased with some meetings I had while in London … People in the UK generally understand there’s a very good deal here for both countries, good market access for different products.”

On China, Senator Watt said he’d seen reports their biggest seafood importers would make orders for Australian lobsters as relations between the countries continued to improve.

“There’s a couple of other products where there has been renewed interest from Chinese buyers over the last few weeks … there’s certainly talk around the industry they’re getting approaches and interests they haven’t had for a while,” he said.

“Even if we’re starting to see the renewal of that kind of dialogue, then that’s obviously a good thing for our producers.”


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