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EU, China agree to protect 100 of each other's regional foods

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BEIJING (Reuters) - The European Union and China have agreed to protect 100 European regional food designations, known as geographical indications (GI), in China and 100 Chinese geographical indications in the EU, the EU Commission said on Wednesday.

The deal will protect the names of such products as cava, Irish whiskey, feta and prosciutto di Parma, as well as China’s Pixian bean paste, Anji white tea and Panjin rice.

The deal significantly expands the number of foods protected by GIs from the 10 products on both sides that were agreed in 2012 and should help boost trade in higher-value goods.

“It is a win for both parties, strengthening our trading relationship, benefiting our agricultural and food sectors, and consumers on both sides,” said Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan, who is currently visiting China.

Consumers are willing to pay more for GI products, he said, trusting the origin and authenticity of the goods.

But the agreement needs to be accompanied in China by updated laws and stronger enforcement, the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China said in a statement.

Government agencies often fail to help protect GIs because they are not defined as intellectual property rights under any specific Chinese law, leading to losses for EU companies, the statement said.

In addition, some of the cheese products mentioned in the deal cannot be exported to China anyway at present, it added.

The agreement still needs to be approved by the European Parliament and European Council, which represents the national governments of the EU, but is expected to enter into force before the end of 2020, the Commission statement said.

It will be expanded to cover an additional 175 GI names from both sides four years after the current agreement.

EU agri-food exports to China were worth 12.8 billion euros in the 12 months from September 2018 to August 2019.

Reporting by Dominique Patton; Additional reporting by Gabriel Crossley; Editing by Kim Coghill and Gareth Jones

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