NZ Foreign Affairs and Trade Manatū Aorere is consulting on the geographical indications that should be protected in the EU-NZ free trade agreement currently being negotiated.

A geographical indication (GI) is a name that identifies a product as originating from a particular place, where there's something about that place that contributes to the reputation, quality or characteristics of the product. Once a GI is protected under NZ law, only genuine products originating from the relevant place, and produced in accordance with the particular standards applied to those products can be labelled and marketed using the GI.

The EU has presented to NZ a long list of food products, wines and spirits that have GIs it would like protected through the FTA. If accepted by NZ, this will then restrict NZ producers' ability to use these names to refer to their products.

The list includes some GIs that will be familiar to New Zealanders, like Prosciutto di Parma for ham, Champagne for wine, and Scotch Whisky for spirits. 

The list also includes some GIs that will be unknown to most New Zealanders, like Vorarlberger Bergkäse (an Austrian cheese), Jijona (a Spanish nougat), Drniški pršut (a Croatian dry cured meat), Sjeverna Dalmacija (a Croatian wine), and Hüttentee (a German spirit). 

And the list also includes some names familiar to New Zealanders, and which some may regard as generic names that could be used on any product of that style, like Gruyère and Roquefort for cheese, Beaujolais and Port for wine, and Irish Cream for spirits. 

The ministry is seeking comment about this list, and in particular whether granting protection for any of these GIs in NZ will have a negative impact (for example, whether the GI is already in common use). Any objections need to be substantiated, and need to be provided by 19 March 2019.

The ministry is also seeking submissions on what GIs NZ should ask the EU to protect, as part of the FTA. Likely examples include the NZ wine regions, Bluff oysters, and possibly other goods like Nelson hops and mānuka honey.

This is a great opportunity for NZ producers to achieve protection of these product designations in the EU, and one that NZ producer organisations should not miss. The scope of this, and the changes that may be made to NZ GI registration law to allow for protection of food product GIs (our current law only protects wine and spirits) is also a good opportunity for food producers in NZ to push for GI protection for their products.

The deadline to nominate any NZ GIs for protection is also 19 March.

More information about this can be found at the ministry's website here. Please get in touch if you need more information, or would like any help preparing your objection or submission.