'Who will save the Cornish Pasties from TTIP?!'

The debate on trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership now focuses on geographical indications (GIs) after German CSU Minister for Agriculture Christian Schmidt gave an interview to the magazine Der Spiegel. For those not familiar with the term: a geographical indication is a name used for products that come from a specific region or are made in a certain way. Under current EU law, a list of 1451 food products is protected. Products can only bear certain names if they come from the specified region and often they also need to conform to other criteria. They include famous products such as Champagne, Feta, Serrano ham, Scottish whisky and Parmesan cheese, but also less well-known ones like the Cornish pasty and the Dutch Kanter clove cheese. The German Minister suggested that TTIP could endanger the European rules on GIs. The British newspaper The Telegraph took the story from Der Spiegel and wrote: 'Cornish pasty ‘threatened by EU-US trade deal''. It concerned pasty lovers on Twitter, and TTIP critics got excited. One person even called it the scariest TTIP food story so far, apparently trumping even the chlorine chicken, hormone beef and GMOs. In all these examples of TTIP 'food stories', the fears seem unfounded for the moment. The European Commission has always said GIs to the EU are an offensive interest in trade negotiations, including with the US. In recently concluded negotiations for example with Canada and Singapore the EU has secured a list of products that will also be protected in Canada and Singapore when the treaties enter into force. The Commission will be aiming to accomplish a similar result in negotiations with the US. Some producers have been vocal about their interest in getting protection for their product in the US, such as producers of Jenever, a Dutch spirit. It is true that there is resistance from American negotiators and in the Congress. At the same time new offensive interests to also protect American products are emerging.The EU already recognises American Bourbon, as well as Mexican Tequila and Mezcal. We will have to see what the European negotiators can achieve. However, even if the EU negotiators are not able to reach their goals on GIs in TTIP, that does not mean that the entire European system will be changed. The Commission has said that the European protections of GIs will remain the same, i.e. an American pie calling itself a Cornish pasty, cannot be sold as such in the EU. EU law will still determine that anything bearing the name Cornish pasty, must conform to the criteria set for it (for example that it must come from Cornwall). By lowering other barriers to trade and making the US market more accessible, TTIP could also make it easier for EU producers to export their products to the US. High-quality products, carrying a European certification which qualifies it as 'Champagne' can compete with American products, such as 'Californian Champagne'. Some people argue that GIs are not necessary and that competition should be on quality anyway, they question the logic of calling the same Californian product Champagne in the US and 'sparkling wine' in the EU. So to those fearing the threat to Cornish pasties from TTIP, or to the Kanter clove cheese, can rest assured. Let us move on and discuss more important topics and EU interests, such as public procurement, financial services, maritime and aviation services and energy. Let´s make sure that we get a negotiated result that is good for Europeans and Americans alike.