TOKYO, July 23 — Japan’s agriculture ministry has published a list of proposed food names that Tokyo and Brussels agreed to mutually protect under geographical indications (GI) stipulations.
The move aims to help farmers from both Japan and the EU to exclusively market their own products, but which the United States may call protectionism.
The proposed list includes 71 European food names such as those referring to the cheeses as “Camembert de Normandie” and “Gorgonzola”.
The Japanese ministry has preceded the evaluation process, taking public comments on the proposed GIs, followed by a group of experts assessing applications, before approving those officially registered as a GI in Japan.
GI is a rule that requires products to come from a particular geographical area and it must meet various quality criteria in order to be called by its name.
Once granted GI status, it allows for regional producers to monopolize the use of famous area names, while other producers have to alter the names of their products.
That means there would be no more “Hokkaido-made Gorgonzora” or “Gorgonzora-style blue cheese”, even if it is an identical looking and tasting product.
However, during the evaluation process if products are widely recognized as common food names in Japan, producers might be free to use the names, even if they are protected as GIs in Europe.
So for instance, in the Japan-EU trade accord, Tokyo agreed to grant a higher level of GI protection to Italian-made “Parmigiano-Reggiano” and its translated version of “Parmesan cheese”.
Yet, U.S.-made and Japanese local made grated cheeses are well-known as “Parmesan cheese” in Japan, and the ministry is expected to take into account views of stakeholders during the evaluation process.