Wheel of Fortune

WillachangeinthewayAmericanamesitscheeseshurt?

sales?

cheeeeeeeeeeeeeese(Photo:shelleylyn)

IfyouweretoaskarandomAmericanwhatheorshethinksabouttheTransatlanticTradeandInvestmentPartnership(TTIP),it’ssafetobettheywouldn’thavemuchtosay。

TheEuropeanUnion-UnitedStatestradedeal,firstfloatedin2013,makesthenewsonanear-dailybasisacrossthepond。

However,whetherbecausetheUShasbeensoopaqueonthedetailsofongoingnegotiations,orbecausemanyoftheissuesinvolvedfeelabstractfromdailylife,manyAmericansdon’tevenknowwhattheTTIP?

is。

Andyet,deepwithinthebowelsofthetreaty,there’soneclausethatcouldhaveaprofoundeffectoneverydayAmericanlife?

—?

bymakingitillegalforUScheesemakerstousecommonnamesrootedinregionalEuropeanculinarytraditionslikefeta,muenster,orparmesan。

EUnegotiatorsareseriousenoughaboutthisthatit’shadtheUSdairyworldinatizzyfortwoyears,underscoringhowattachedourcheesecultureis,bothemotionallyandfinancially,toits(oftenonlyname-deep)Europeanheritage。

Oneclause[couldmake]itillegalforUScheesemakerstousecommonnamesrootedinregionalEuropeanculinarytraditionslikefeta,muenster,orparmesan。

ThisprovisionisjustthelatestinalongcrusadebytraditionalEuropeancheesemakersagainstthewilly-nillyusageoftheirregion’sdairytermsbyforeigners。

Intheearly20thcentury,someEuropeanstatesblockedtheimportationofforeignproductsusingtheirnames,hopingtoprotecttheintegrityoftheirculinaryheritage。

Predictably,Francewasamongthefirsttoimplementacohesivesystemofculturalprotectionsfortheircheeses,limitingtheuseofthenameRoquefortin1925。

ButothernationslikeGreece,historicallylesslitigiouslyfinickyabouttheirfood,jumpedontheboataswell。

Startinginthe1930s,youcouldn’tsellbrinedgoatorsheep’scheeseunderthename“feta”inGreeceunlessitwasverifiablymadeinspecificregionsofthatnationusingexactratiosofsheep’smilktogoat’s?

milk。

Maybefeta,maybenot!

(Image:Stacy?

Spensley

In1992,theEUpickeduptheseprecedentsandcodifieda“ProtectedDesignationofOrigin”systemtojudgewhichnames,tiedtotraditionalregionsandmodesofproduction,oughttobeprotectedthroughouttheUnion。

Itwasamovegearedtowardsprotectingtheflavorintegrityandeconomicviabilityoftraditionalproducts。

Towit,aftertheEUembracedGreece’sclaimthatfetawasadistinctregionalproductin2005,otherEuropeanfetamakersweren’tjustbarredfromsellingtheirproductsinGreece。

Theyalsocouldnolongercalltheircheesesfetaintotal?

—?

tothechagrinofBritish,Danish,andGermanproducerswho’dlongdominatedtheEUmarketwithcow’smilkfetaandtothebenefitofpoorcheesemakersintheruralGreekmountains。

Sincethen,theEUhasslappedtheseprotectionsontoabout180cheeses,includingAsiagos,Bries,Camemberts,Gorgonzolas,Goudas,Gruyeres,Manchegos,andProvolones。

EUofficialshavebeensopleasedwiththebenefitsoftheseculturalprotections,buildingtheexclusivityandthusbrandstrengthandprofitabilityofcheesesonthecontinent,thatthey’vesoughttoextendthemacrosstheworldviatradetreaties,includingonefinalizedbetweentheEUandCanadainthesummerof2014,whichiscurrentlyjustawaitingimplementation。

Mmmmmmmuenster!

(Image:bl0ndeeo2)

Inearly2014,AmericancheesemakersrealizedEurope’spushtoextendthefrontiersoftheirculturalprotectionregimeincludedtheTTIPandfreakedout。

AccordingtoMassimoVittori,managingdirectoroftheGeneva-basedpro-culturalprotectiongrouporiGIn,atleast70cheesenamesthatmostAmericansconsidergenericconflictwithEuropeanrestrictions。

Americancheesemakers,fromindustrypowerhouseslikeKraft-HeinztoMidwesterncraftproducers,saythey’vespentdecadesandgobsofcashdevelopingbrandsbuiltonthesegenericnames?

—?

justthinkabouteverytubeofgratedwhitestuffintherefrigeratedaisleofyourgrocerystoreyouassociatewithparmesanoreverydelisliceyouassociatewithmuenster。

Atleast70cheesenamesthatmostAmericansconsidergenericconflictwithEuropeanrestrictions。

SomeclaimAmericanproducersandmarketersactuallybuilttheinternationalreputationofanddemandforEuropean-heritagecheesesthatEUproducersnowwanttoleveragethroughculturalprotections。

Theyfearthat,ifthey’reforcedtostartcallingtheirproductsbrinedcow’smilkcheeseinsteadoffetaorparmesan-stylehardcheeseinsteadofparmesan,they’llloseglobalmarketrecognition—they’llseemcut-rate。

NooneIspoketointheUScheeseindustrycouldputafigureonit,buttheyallsuspectthiswouldtakeafairchunkoutofthemulti-billiondollarindustry,jeopardizingthewell-beingofmanydairyfarmersandmanufacturersathomeforthebenefitofsmallpocketsoffarmersandproducersabroad。

Naturally,abipartisangroupof55senatorsattemptedtoprotesttheprovision?

—?

becausecheeseisperhapstheonethingthatcanunitethisnation,eventoday。

AndtheUShasofficiallypushedback,arguingthatEUproducerscanjustfiletrademarkapplicationsforprotectionintheUS。

JustlikeundertheEU’ssystem,thiswouldpreventpeopleotherthanthetrademarkholdersorlicensedusersfromlabelingtheircheesewithspecificnamesinAmerica。

Howeverwedon’tissuetrademarksfornamesweconsidertoogeneric,likeparmesan,whichAmericanshavelongusedasageneraltermforahardwhite?

cheese。

ShawnaMorris,whohandlestradepolicyfortheNationalMilkProducersFederationandUSDairyExportCouncil,pointsoutthatanumberofEuropeancheesesincludedonthelistforprotection,likeRoquefortorParmigiano-Reggianoalreadyhavetrademarks。

ButforEuropeansthat’snotenough;thetrademarkforParmigiano-Reggianodoesn’textendtoparmesan,whichtothemisasynonym,notagenericgenus?

term。

Parmigiano-Reggiano,therealdeal。

(Image:Matt?

Lewis)

“Ifthe[Europeannegotiators]spentasmuchtimeandefforthelping[producers]simplyregistertheirnamesthroughtheexistingsystemastheyhaveintryingtoimposenewrestrictionsintheUSmarket,”Morrissaid,“theirgoalofgreaterprotectionforEUtermswouldhavealreadybeenachieved。

It’sashame,really,because[they]continuetoadamantlyrefusetoacknowledgethatitisactuallyUSproducerswhofacegenuinetradebarriersinthiscontext。

It’sUScompaniesthatcannotsellasiagoorfetatotheEUandincreasinglytoanumberofotherglobalmarkets,directlyasaresultofinappropriatelybroadEU…policies。



DespitestaunchpushbackandaccusationsthattheEU’sbidgoesbeyondprotectingitsfarmersandmovesintoanoverreachingprotectionistassaultonAmericandairy,theEUhasstoodstrong;201ofEurope’sover1,300culturalfoodprotectionsshowupinpapersfromTTIPnegotiationsthisspring,78ofwhicharecheeses。

Justlastmonth,aneventhostedbytheEUincludedasessionontheimportanceofglobalrecognitionoftheseprotectionsforthesecurityofregionalagriculturewithinthebloc,whichusedcheeseasakey?

example。

It’sastubbornpositionbornofafirmconvictionthatgenericAmericancheeses,nomatterhowlongthey’veusedthetermsorhowmanydollarsthey’vesunkintobranding,areclearlyjustpiggybackingonthehautereputationoftheirclassierEuropeankin。

That’snotalwaysthecase?

—?

asMorrispointsout,someAmericancheeseshavewoninternationalawardsgoingheadtoheadwithEU-madecounterparts?

—?

likeBelGioiosoParmesan,whichtookfirstinclassinglobalcompetitionsin1986,2010,and2012。

ButEuropeansdohaveapointthatmanyAmericanparmesanstastenothingliketheircontinentalequivalents,becausetheyuseingredientsItalianswouldconsiderunholy—likecellulosepowderandpotassiumsorbate—andthenmarketthemselvesusingItalianimageryorobliquereferencestothequalityandstoryofParmigiano-Reggiano。

ThesamecouldbesaidofAmericanfetas,whichmaybepartofourheritagethroughsouthernEuropeanimmigration,butwhichcannottrulymimictraditionaltastesduetofederalregulationsonUScheeseproductionandtheusageofnon-traditionalmaterialslikecow’smilkinsteadofsheep’sandgoat’smilkinmanyofferings。

Evenifwepopularizedthetermsandsometimesdocredittotheirheritage,thatdoesn’tmeanwedon’talsooftenirresponsiblycapitalizeonanddetrimentallybastardizethatheritage。

ManyontheEuropeansidehavetriedtoconvincetheUSindustrythattheTTIPisanopportunitytobuildstronglocalbrands,whichcouldbemoreprofitableintheend。

OriGIn’sVittoripointsoutthatasimilardealinAustraliakilleditsdependenceon“generic”winenamesrootedinEuropeanheritage,likeChablisorChampagne,whichfolksintheknowrealizearetiedtospecificregionsinFrance,butwhichmanyfirmsinAustraliaatthetime(andinAmericanow)usedtouptheirclassfactorandsales。

Intheaftermath,Australianvintnerscreatedwildlysuccessfulnarrativesoflocalwineregion-brandslikeBarossaValleyorMargaretRiver。

Vittorithinksthereareatleast500productsthattheUScouldcreateculturallydistinctandprotectedtitlesfor,includingmanycheeses,givingamassiveboosttolocalproducersoffsettinganydamagetherecognitionofEuropeanprotectionsmight?

do。

“Fromthemarketingperspective,”hetoldme,“moreandmoreconsumersarelookingforauthenticity…leveragingspecificcharacteristicsofplace。

”Already,producersofUScheeseslikeGrayson,Hooligan,andHumboldtFoghavedrawnontheirlocationoruniqueprocessesandingredientstoestablishpopularandprofitableAmerican?

brands。

Vittorihasn’t,headmitted,foundmuchtractionwiththisnarrative。

“Wehaveagooddialogue,”hesaid,“butasfarasIunderstand,the[US]positionremainsquiteskeptical。

”That’smainlybecauselocalcheesemakerscaneasilypointtothepaintheirEuropeancounterpartssayforcednamechangescausedthem,orthetroubleKraft-Heinzfacedwhen,in2008,itwasfinallyforcedtorenameitsparmesan“pamesello”intheEU,asproofthattheserestrictionsarejustpainfultradebarriersdesignedaspoliticaltoolstohurtviableandlarge-scaleAmericanproducers。

“localcheesemakerscaneasilypointtothepaintheirEuropeancounterpartssayforcednamechangescaused?

them”

USproducersseemtobesoconvincedthatthispotentialforcednamechangeisafundamentalinjustice,violatingthevaluesoffreetradeandfairusage,thatnooneItalkedtowasawareofanyeffortstocomeupwithcontingencyplansforrebrandingorrepositioning。

Instead,explainedDougDiMentooftheNortheast’sCabotCreameryCooperative,“we’resimplytryingtofight。

”Theindustryhasformedanentirelobbyinggroup,theConsortiumforCommonFoodNames(whosemediaoutreachMorrisruns),topushbackonEuropeanculturalprotectionsinthe?

TTIP。

ChancesaretheentireTTIPdealisnotgoingtofreezeoveradebateontherightfulusageofthetermparmesan。

So,givenhowentrenchedtheUSpositionis,it’slikelywe’llseesomekindofcompromise。

VittorihasfloatedtheideaofallowingtheUStousenamesweconsidergenericundercertainconditions,suchasnotassociatingourparmesanwithItalianculturalsymbols;maybewecouldmakehyphenatedAmerican-Xcheeses,makingitcleartherearedifferencesbetweentraditionalEuropeancheesesandtheirfineAmericancousins。

ThedetailsofthosecompromiseswouldhavetobehashedoutbyproducersonbothsidesoftheAtlantic,though。

Intruth,it’dprobablybegoodforUSproducerstomoveawayfromexplicitcallbackstoourEuropeanheritage,asamatterofprideinourlocalproducts,amoveinthedirectionofUSfoodtrendsthatprivilegeaclearandlocalprovenance,andameansofallowingconsumerstobetterunderstandwhatthey’rebuying?

—?

somethingtheUShistoricallysucks?

at。

It’dprobablybegoodforUSproducerstomoveawayfromexplicitcallbackstoourEuropeanheritage。

Renamingourcheeses,say,Oregoncowfetaorsomethingtotallynoveldoesn’tseemsobad。

Butthefactthatamultinationaltradeconflicthasspunoutofcheesenameusagerightssayssomethingabouttheperceivedvalueofanestablishedbrand?

—?

andtheabjectfeartheprospectofaforcedchangecaninspire。

Thisobscuretradedealaboutwhichsofewofusgiveashithasthepotentialtomakeusmorefood-consciousconsumersandbenefitlocalbrandsandproducers。

ItalsohasthepotentialtoputadentintheUSdairyindustry。