China-EU cooperation on geographical indication leads to brighter future of bilateral trade

Farmers pick white tea in Anji, east China's Zhejiang province, March 2020. Photo by Xia Pengfei/People's Daily Online

A hundred geographical indications (GIs) from 27 Chinese provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities are currently protected in the European Union (EU), and a huge batch of quality agri-food products are expected to hit the dinner tables of European consumers, such as white tea from Anji, navel oranges from southern Jiangxi, black vinegar from Shanxi, bean paste from Pixian and raisins from Turpan.

At the same, 100 European GIs are also protected in China, including Bavarian beer, feta cheese, Parma ham and Vinho Verde wine. These European GIs will see increased competitiveness in the Chinese market, presenting genuine products from Europe to Chinese consumers.

GI is an important intellectual property that protects the characteristics, reputation and other features of products that have a specific geographical origin. Stemming from traditions, cultures and origins, GI is to some extent a guarantee for products’ characteristics and quality.

The China- EU negotiation on GI agreement started in 2011 and concluded 8 years later. So far, the two sides have completed all approvals in accordance with their respective laws and regulations. Another 175 GI names from both sides will be protected under the scope of the agreement four years after its entry into force.

“It’s an important opportunity for China to enhance the internationalization and brand influence of its agricultural products,” said Fu Tianlong, chairman of board of Chunlun Tea Group in southeast China’s Fujian province. According to him, the jasmine tea produced in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian, has a high reputation in the European market, and has been exported to France, the UK and Germany.

“The recognition of European consumers for Chinese GIs such as the Fuzhou jasmine tea is an ‘entrance ticket’ for Chinese agricultural products,” Fu told People’s Daily, adding that Chinese tea products will earn more trust and better build their brands in Europe. “It also reinforced our confidence and resolution to explore foreign markets for Chinese farm products,” he said.

Bénédit Chaland, who’s in charge of international business of French cheese enterprise Gaborit told People’s Daily that the export of European agricultural products would embrace an important opportunity that benefits both businesses and consumers. Comté cheese and Roquefort cheese from France have made it into the list of the first 100 GIs protected in China, and more products will be considered for protection.

“As China continues optimizing its business environment and opening its market, we are placing more importance on the Chinese market,” said Chaland, adding that his company will be present at the third China International Import Expo.

China and Europe have witnessed constant expansion of agriculture and trade of farm products in recent years. China is the second largest destination of farm produce export, as well as a major source of farm produce import for the EU. Statistics indicate that the EU exported agricultural products worth 15.3 billion euros ($18.25 billion) to China in 2019, an increase of 37.9 percent from a year earlier.

GI is a golden “signboard” for agricultural products. China, boasting a vast territory, rich resources and diverse culture, enjoys abundant GI products, and the value of relevant industries has exceeded a trillion yuan ($146 billion). GI is one of the most effective ways for many regions to develop featured economy and achieve targeted poverty alleviation.

As of the end of June, China had approved 2,385 GI products and 5,682 GI trademarks had been registered. The number of GIs is on a steady increase, and relevant market entities are also emerging.

The steady growth of GIs demonstrated the increasing importance paid by the Chinese government on the protection of intellectual property right (IPR), said Chairman of Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce Bernard Dewit.

He believes the China-EU negotiation on GI agreement will definitely drive the progress of China’s IPR protection, consolidate the legal framework for China-Europe trade, enhance the confidence of foreign investors in China and attract more foreign investment.

Ye Bin, chief of the Department of EU Legal Studies under the Institute of European Studies (IES) at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), noted that the agreement explains China’s attitude to promote the building of an open world economy. By carrying out more cooperation with each other in economy and trade and launching better IPR protection, China and the EU will further facilitate their trade and release a positive signal for global multilateral cooperation.

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