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China-EU landmark geographical indications agreement to propel trade of high-quality products to new highs

Updated: Jan 09,2021 07:58 AM    Xinhua

STOCKHOLM — The start of 2021 is distinguished by the implementation of the landmark China-European Union (EU) bilateral agreement on protecting 100 European Geographical Indications (GIs) in China and 100 Chinese GIs in the EU against usurpation and imitation.

According to the agreement, the Chinese GI products protected in the EU include Pixian Dou Ban (Pixian bean paste), Anxi Tie Guan Yin (Anxi oolong tea), Panjin Da Mi (Panjin rice) and Wu Liang Ye (Wuliangye liquor), while the EU list protected in China includes Cava (a wine from Spain), Champagne (a wine from France), Feta (a cheese from Greece), Irish whiskey, Munchener Bier (a beer from Germany).

Thanks to the agreement, GIs from both sides are protected in both markets where consumers can buy authentic Chinese or EU local products, most of which are wines, spirits and agricultural food products.

Besides the reciprocal trade benefits as well as introducing consumers to quality products from both sides, the agreement's implementation is expected to propel bilateral trade of high-quality products to new highs.

BETTER PROTECTION

Anxi Tie Guan Yin, a type of world-famous Chinese tea originating in the 19th century in Southeast China's Fujian province, is among the 100 Chinese GIs being protected from Jan 1, 2021.

"After formal implementation of the agreement, Anxi Tie Guan Yin will enjoy the legal protection of its origin in the EU market and have the right to use the EU's official certification mark, which can effectively prevent counterfeiting," Liu Qingzhou, director of the Tea Industry Management Committee Office of Anxi county, Fujian province, told Xinhua.

The agreement also eliminates worries about "the EU's high-quality specialty products to enter the Chinese market, allowing (Chinese) consumers to access high-quality European specialty products more easily to improve their quality of life," Liu stressed.

On the EU side, 100 GIs, French Champagne, have started to enjoy a higher degree of protection.

Standing "with our Chinese counterparts", the "100 + 100" model offers better protections for various GIs, said Vincent Perrin, director general of Comite Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne, a trade association representing the interests of independent Champagne producers and Champagne houses.

"Champagne is the most exported wine appellation in the world. And China increasingly recognizes the value of geographical indications: it has a very rich heritage of food and artisanal know-how, and consumers are increasingly looking for guarantees of authenticity," Perrin told Xinhua.

"The EU-Chinese agreement on geographical indications expands the list of products protected and recognized in our two markets," Perrin added.

"This agreement will guarantee the protection of 100 EU agri-food GIs on the Chinese market. This is a further step which testifies to the will of the European Union and China to work closely together," Rodolphe Lameyse, CEO of Vinexposium, told Xinhua.

He added that it is important to protect European GI products, renowned for their "quality and diversity," at both EU and global levels "in order to guarantee their authenticity and preserve their reputation for the satisfaction of Chinese consumers."

"The agreement ... is extremely important for Europe and China since in return China will be able to use the European logo for its GIs as well. This recognition will allow Chinese producers to benefit from the economic development that a GI allows," Lameyse said.

LARGER SALES

While the implementation of the agreement will surely better protect GI products from both sides, it brings substantive benefits by mutually recognizing those products and creating greater opportunities for product sales on both markets.

As a local pillar industry, the sale of Anxi Tie Guan Yin provides income for 80 percent of the county's 1.2 million people and 56 percent of the average annual net income for local farmers. "At present, Anxi county has 600,000 mu (or 40,000 hectares) of tea plantations with an annual output of 62,000 metric tons and a total production value of 25 billion yuan (about $4 billion)," Liu explained.

The formal implementation of the agreement further reassured Wu Rongshan, chairman of Fujian Sanhe Tea Co, of the significance to continue exploring the European market. Wu told Xinhua that with its unique natural environment and superb tea-making technology, their oolong tea has been quite popular in the domestic market, and there's still room for improvement in its popularity and market share in Europe.

"Anxi Tie Guan Yin is included in the agreement, which means that our products will be more easily recognized by the European Union," Wu said, adding that the tea will gain foothold in a larger international market.

The agreement's implementation "will help producers protect local competitiveness, improve the quality and reputation of goods, and protect consumers from counterfeiting. This agreement also helps ... high-quality Chinese food enter the homes of ordinary people in Italy," Livio Mazzanti, area manager China for Italian winemaking company Marchesi Mazzei, told Xinhua.

"I like a lot of Chinese food in the agreement, and tea has a big market in Italy. As these origins are protected, Italians can purchase Chinese food with greater confidence. It is expected that the sales of Chinese food in Italy and Europe will grow rapidly," Mazzanti added.

Also included in the agreement are wines, which account for a significant part of Spain's exports. Jose Luis Benitez, general director of the Spanish Wine Federation, told Xinhua that he believed the forecasts for wine exports to China show a growing trend.

"China is currently Spain's fourth largest market for bottled wines. However ... there are predictions that China could end up becoming the second largest market for Spanish wines," he said.

HUGE POTENTIAL

Apart from the GIs already listed, the agreement will expand, in the upcoming four years, to cover additional 175 GI names from both sides. In the extended lists, GIs representing traditional Chinese culture such as Xuan Paper, Huangmei Cross-stitch, Shu Brocade and Qingshen Bamboo Weaving will be included, with bilateral cultural exchanges likely to be boosted.

Already internationally popular, iconic Chinese GIs such as Anxi Tie Guan Yin are also seen as representatives of traditional Chinese culture. Wu Rongshan believes that the agreement will help increase the tea's popularity and recognition in Europe, and allow more European consumers to learn about Chinese tea culture through Tie Guan Yin, and then get to know China's traditional culture.

Liu Qingzhou told Xinhua that with the agreement, the county would not only increase the brand's influence, but also, with tea as a medium, promote cultural exchanges and economic cooperation between China and the EU.

The huge potential of the agreement also stands out at this unusual time of uncertainties against the backdrop of rising global unilateralism, trade protectionism and the ongoing pandemic.

The EU's additional list of 175 GIs includes wines from the northeastern Priorat region in Spain, where wines are recognized for their quality under the Denominacion d'Origen Qualificada (DOQ) classification, a national system to regulate the quality and geographical origin of food and drinks.

"There are increasingly more Chinese companies interested in Priorat wines, and there are increasingly more of Priorat's small family wineries interested in that contact," Salus Alvarez, president of the DOQ Priorat, told Xinhua, estimating that the Chinese market can account for up to 25 percent of Priorat's wine exports in the future from the current 10 percent.

Although the pandemic interrupted the growth of commercial ties between Priorat wines and the Chinese market, Alvarez is confident that business will soon pick up. "We predict that 2021 will see a reunion with the Chinese market and the link that is being established in terms of friendly relations and of trust is very strong," he said.

Fernando Miranda, secretary general of the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and Food, is optimistic about the agreement and its potential, as it will be expanded to cover a further 36 Spanish agri-food products. The DOQ products "make up 12 percent of our exports, so it guarantees growth in those products of the highest quality," Fernando told Xinhua.

Christophe Danneaux, vice-president Champagne of Martell Mumm Perrier-Jouet, told Xinhua that he remained very positive on their exports to China despite the pandemic.

"We are optimistic about the economic recovery and the gradual reopening of bars, restaurants and hotels. We have chosen to maintain a strong presence through activations throughout 2020," he said.

His company was a partner of the West Bund Art Fair in Shanghai last October, and soon after completing a campaign for a brand in China, "we are already preparing the festivities for the Chinese New Year," Danneaux added.

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