2006_Josling_GIs.doc - Draft Comments welcome The War on...

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Draft: Comments welcome The War on Terroir: Geographical Indications as a Transatlantic Trade Conflict Tim Josling Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University Paper presented as the Presidential Address to the AES Annual Meeting in Paris March 30 2006
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The War on Terroir: Geographical Indications as a Transatlantic Trade Conflict Tim Josling * The concept of terroir, the essential link between the location in which a food or beverage is produced and its quality or other consumer attributes, is at the heart of a simmering trade dispute between the US and the EU. The form of intellectual protection known by the term of art “geographical indications,” or GIs for short, is central to providing the concept of terroir legal expression. Differences in the form and substance of GI protection have long been a Transatlantic trade irritant. This conflict has been the subject of bilateral talks for twenty years, as well as more recent negotiations and disputes in the World Trade Organization (WTO). Some partial resolution to the GI conflict may be included in a final package of measures at the conclusion of the current Doha Round of WTO talks. But the underlying questions will remain. Moreover, the transatlantic trade issues have much wider implications, as GI regulations in the EU and the US affect all exporters of goods that are subject to such protection, particularly in Latin America and South Africa. The multilateral framework in which such regulations are set would also be of relevance to many more developing countries if GI protection is widened from wines, spirits, cheeses and meats to other food and non-food products. The issues raised by the concept of terroir and the protection of GIs are of some significance for those who study trade and policy in agricultural and food products. Yet the topic has not been given much attention. The subject tends to be treated primarily as a legal issue, of reconciliation between alternative ways of granting protection to producers from usurpation of names and signs (O’Connor, 2004). The sociology of terroir and its significance in establishing and preserving identity is also the subject of some research, neatly summarized by Broude (2005). But the question as to what level of protection to grant to a geographical identifier is of importance in the framing of trade rules and the understanding of the process of globalization in food markets. Along with the continuing tension between regulations that are based on “product standards” and those that regulate “production and processing methods,” as exemplified in the controversy over genetically modified foods, the conflicts over GIs will help shape the future of food trade. Clearly, GIs are here to stay – at least for a while. They have a long history, and a basic rationale that is difficult to fault. The idea of including information on place of origin should be taken seriously as a way of correcting consumer information asymmetries, by *
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