Geographical indications are a distinctive type of intellectual property rights, protected by the TRIPS Agreement. The EU and China started to negotiate the Agreement on the Cooperation on, and Protection of, Geographical Indications in March 2011. It has recently been revealed that one or two more rounds of negotiations may be necessary to conclude the Agreement. Recall that in July 2017, as a major step forward in the negotiations, the EU and China each published a list of 100 GI products that may be granted protection under the other’s jurisdiction.
Both Europe and China are endowed with a sophisticated food culture, featuring many high-quality GI products protected in their respective territories. An agreement on GI protection will facilitate more GI exports and further enhance overall bilateral trade in foodstuffs, which has seen steady and quick growth over the last decade. According to the latest statistics, China is Europe’s second-largest export market for foodstuffs (over the last few years), while Europe is China’s fifth largest.
This report illustrates that, in the context of negotiating the GI Protection Agreement, the EU succeeded in extending its GI protection philosophy, i.e. the so-called ‘old-world’ approach, and model to China, paving the way for more GIs to be registered in the country for future protection. The EU leverages GI protection to enhance its food quality policy, which goes hand in hand with the reform of the common agricultural policy. As for China, although further work on technical details, including strengthening GI enforcement, is required, doubling down on GI exports to Europe and through ambitious trade agreements with other trading partners should be a goal. Thus, China’s ancient food culture would serve the modern purposes of enhanced trade – just as the EU has achieved.
Moreover, the forthcoming GI Protection Agreement between the EU and China is instilled with the principles of reciprocity and mutual benefits, which should be a sine qua non for trade relations applicable to all partners. In this regard, both sides should strive to extend their constructive cooperation on GI protection to other trade areas to facilitate a win-win spirit in overall bilateral trade relations. The Report covers in extensive detail the Chinese aspects of GI protection, as they are not well-known in Europe
Weinian Hu is Research Fellow at CEPS.