Minutes - TRIPS Council - View details of the intervention/statement

Ambassador Eduardo Pérez Motta (Mexico)
184. Responding to the representative of Bulgaria, the representative of Australia said that his delegation's contribution in the Council and in the period leading up to Doha showed that it was prepared to discuss the issue. The case of Bulgarian yoghurt and Bulgarian feta were the very issues it tried to get at. Bulgaria regarded their yoghurt and their feta as very famous products. The European Communities had just passed a regulation which would deny Bulgaria from selling Bulgarian feta in the EC, once the Council would have passed the regulation. If his delegation accepted the proposal by the co-sponsors, it too would have to deny Bulgaria the right to sell Bulgarian feta in Australia. On Bulgarian yoghurt, the question was whether the European Communities would accept the words "Bulgarian yoghurt" as a geographical indication from Bulgaria. He betted that they would not. The other issue was that even if the European Communities did accept yoghurt, would Bulgaria as a country be accepted as a geographical indication? A number of countries had said that the IP definition of geographical indications was flexible enough. He believed that that was the problem; the definition was so flexible that some countries were abusing it by claiming that traditional terms, English adjectives that described a Portuguese product, were somehow a geographical indication. That was why the issue of the European Communities' wine regulation was so relevant to the debate. He said that he could understand that the European Communities did not want to dwell on the EC system or the EC wine regulation but the fact was that they were critical to the question on extension. 185. Developing country Members had repeatedly said that they needed to level the playing field. Kenya had asked wine exporters how they would feel if the tables were turned. The representative of Australia said that Chile had given an answer to that, and he was sure that if all non-European wine exporters were asked whether they would cut Article 23 and go back to Article 22, the decision would be unanimous. That was because of their experience with Article 23 in relation to wine. In recent years, a number of countries in the new world, namely Chile, Argentina, South Africa, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Uruguay and Australia had developed a flourishing wine industry. Was that because they protected geographical indications and sold wines on the basis of geographical indications? It was because of quality, innovation, marketing, investment and good reputation. The European Communities would say that the reason was the use of their names. However, Australia had agreed not to use their names at the time of the TRIPS negotiations. Australia was now facing new wine regulations going beyond geographical indications picking up terms which were ordinary English adjectives. Australia had a drink called "Port" and it accepted that the word was based on the Portuguese word "oporto", so it willingly gave up on the use of the word. Then, looking for something to use on the label, Australian producers used "vintage", "ruby" or "tawny", which were English words and not English interpretations of Portuguese words. Yet his delegation had been told they could not do that. It had also been told that the European Communities owned certain bottle shapes. This was to say that in a few years time the champagne-type bottle which was used all over the world would suddenly be declared as a traditional expression or a traditional shape. In Switzerland, the town of Champagne was being deprived of making a wine which was not even champagne. The point was that the whole definition of geographical indications was being perpetrated in a way that was not comfortable with and that was why he was concerned with the extension issue. 186. He recalled that Kenya had said that developing country Members might be more comfortable in complying with old obligations if the new obligations were balanced up. He understood that to a certain extent, but wondered whether it was genuinely true and whether that was the real reason why some developing country Members had not introduced Article 22 protection let alone Article 23. He suspected it was because it was such a costly effort. The reason he was promoting caution was underlined during the WTO Public Symposium. Who were the people counselling his delegation to be cautious? They were the Danish Dairy Board and a Spanish wine producer, both of whom had gone through a difficult times, the wine producer losing its trademark and spending many years fighting to have it re-established and the Danish Dairy Board on the issue of feta. Concluding, the representative of Australia said that he was genuinely prepared to debate the issues and believed that the type of system the European Communities had was relevant. The matter was not a simple issue of changing Article 23 to cover all products.