The Hon. Mark Vaile, MP
The Hon. Mark Vaile, MP
FORMER MINISTER FOR TRADE

Media Release

A118/2003 3rd October 2003

Australia Starts Next Phase in EU GIs Challenge

Australia's challenge to the European Union's legislative rules for descriptions of certain foodstuffs and agricultural products will be heard by a World Trade Organisation (WTO) dispute settlement panel, Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Trade Minister John Anderson announced today.

Last night, the WTO formally established a dispute settlement panel to hear Australia''s challenge, and a challenge by the United States, to the EU's rules on geographical indications (GIs).

"Australia and the United States have had consultations with the EU over the way the EU registers and protects GIs, but there has been little progress to date on resolving the issues of concern to us," Mr Anderson said.

"Consequently, Australia and the United States have exercised their WTO rights and sought dispute settlement panels to hear their respective challenges to the EU''s rules. The complaints will be heard by a single panel."

GIs identify a product as originating from a specific geographical area where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the product is essentially attributable to that geographical origin. The legislation being challenged by Australia does not apply to the registration and protection of GIs for wines and spirits. The GIs at issue in this dispute are for products such as cheese, beer, wool, processed meat, fruit and cork.

"Australia remains open to settling this dispute at any time, but we will continue formal dispute settlement proceedings to protect our legitimate WTO rights should this prove necessary," Mr Anderson said.

"While the dispute highlights some of the difficulties inherent in the EU''s approach to GIs in the Doha Round, the dispute is about the EU''s implementation of its existing WTO obligations."

The next step in the dispute will be to appoint the members of the panel. Once that is done, all parties to the dispute will have the opportunity to make submissions to, and be heard by, the panel. The panel''s report is unlikely to be released before late 2004.

Contact:

Mr Anderson's office Bill McKinley 02 62777680
Mr Vaile's office Matthew Doman 02 62777420

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