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

Ambassador Eui-yong Chung (Korea, Republic of)
United States of America
C.ii.iv.b The purpose of the notification and registration system
131. The representative of the United States said that Article 23.4 made very clear that the purpose of these negotiations was to "facilitate" the protection of geographical indications for wines and spirits. The "Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English" said "facilitate" meant "make easy, promote, help, forward". "Facilitate" did not mean "make mandatory". So, the purpose of the multilateral system of notification and registration to be established through these negotiations was not to create a list of geographical indications for wines and spirits that must be protected in the territory of every WTO Member. The purpose was to establish a system that made easy, promoted, helped or forwarded the legal means that each Member already had in place that allowed interested parties to prevent the use of an indication identifying wines and spirits which did not originate in the place indicated, so long as the indication met the definition of a geographical indication in that Member's territory, was not a homonymous geographical indication, and none of the exceptions provided for in Article 24 applied. Rather than reading out theoretical and legalistic interpretations of "facilitation", he gave the floor to a practitioner, a colleague from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), to give the Special Session some sense of the value of the purpose of the negotiations. Part of his colleague's duty was to make use of compilations of GIs in making his daily decisions about wine and spirit labelling. 132. The representative of BATF said that his Bureau approved approximately 70,000 labels a year for distilled spirits, wines and malt beverages. Those labels covered products both domestically produced and imported into the United States. The vast majority of the 70,000 labels covered wine. The BATF employed approximately 35 to 40 employees working full time during the year to process those 70,000 applications. In processing those applications, they would find very useful the type of system (database) described in the communication co-sponsored by Canada and other countries, including the United States. They had to ensure that, when wine was imported into the US with a label bearing a geographical indication, that geographical indication was authorized in the country of production. In order to make that determination, as a current practice, they might have to go to the embassy of that country, to seek out an annex to a bilateral agreement to determine whether that geographical indication was recognized in the country of origin. There were also many secondary sources they might have to go to in order to make that determination. There was, therefore, a significant practical utility and efficiency in having a single database that the BTAF could go to as a regulator to determine whether the country of origin of a particular wine had authorized that geographical indication. That would enable BATF to make sure that the label was truthful in that regard and did not mislead the consumer. Furthermore, having a single database to do that had extreme utility to regulators to ensure that the imported wine crossed the border in a smooth and efficient manner.