CETA, the ‘Made in Italy’ betrayed


As we have mentioned, CETA, the‘Comprehensive Economy Trade Agreement‘ between Canada and the EU, will erode European policies in those parts where they may disrupt private interests to free trade. These include the protection of geographical indications on traditional foods. Let’s see how.

The trumpets of power have blown in the hymn to the protection of (some) PDOs and PGIs, invariably including Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano cheeses, Parma and San Daniele hams. But the protection is entirely vague, for some simple reasons that can be discerned between the lines of the negotiating text:

A) the recognition of 41 Italian geographical indications (1) already registered in Europe in no way precludes the free sale in Canada of counterfeits of those same PDOs and PGIs, in the cases of:

– homonymous trademarks that have already been registered (such as that of the famous Parma ham ‘Made in Canada’), or in respect of which a ‘bona fide’ application for registration has been made, prior to the date of the initialling of CETA, (2)

– custom of using the translation of a registered name, or part of it. (3) The negotiators thus succeeded in legitimizing the use of the name ‘Parmesan,’ claiming its so-called ‘vulgarization,’ after decades of dedicated battles in the ‘Codex Alimentarius. A very dangerous precedent.

Paradoxically, any investment aimed at promoting those typical Italian products in the world will benefit not only members of the relevant protection consortia but also counterfeiters. Who will yes have to refrain from bringing the counterfeit goods into the EU (purely theoretically, given the already wide spread of ‘Parmesan’ and fake mortadella in Europe, to name just a couple) but will be fully entitled to sell them in North America and the five continents,

B) Asiago, Gorgonzola and Fontina DOP-although they fall under the fateful ‘list of 41’-are subject to a further ‘vulnus,’ in that their names can be used without limit by those who have already used them in the ‘cheese’ category before 18.10.13. For more recent counterfeits, it will be necessary instead to include on the label a wording such as ‘ kind,’ ‘ type,’ ‘ style,’ ‘imitation,’ as well as the country of production. (3) The exact denial of the guarantees offered by the European regulation that the ‘Registered names shall be protected against (…) any usurpation, imitation or evocation, even if the true origin of the goods or services is indicated or if the protected name is a translation or is accompanied by expressions such as “style,” “type,” “method,” “in the manner,” “imitation,” or the like, even where such goods are used as an ingredient‘. (4)

C) the remaining 6/7 of the ‘Made in Italy’ PDOs and PGIs, on the other hand, are destined to succumb permanently. Indeed, CETA clarifies that ‘Geographical Indications’ already registered on the date of its initialing and not enclosed in the fateful list will not be added to it in the future, in principle. It will be even more difficult to envisage the recognition of geographical indications that are still unregistered in the EU, as trademarks already registered or otherwise used ‘in good faith’ and even so-called ‘customary names’ will prevail over them. (5)

The hues of CETA are therefore much bleaker than those falsely represented by its proponents, as well as with respect to the European legislator’s predictions about the ‘creation of mechanisms to protect them’ [the PDOs and PGIs, ed.] In third countries under the World Trade Organization (WTO) or multilateral and bilateral agreementsi‘ (6).

To make matters worse, the origin of a product, for the purposes of the Agreement, qualifies (as well as in the case of its entire production in a national territory) when it has undergone not only the ‘last substantial processing’ (7) but, in much more general terms, ‘sufficient processing’ (8) in one of the countries that are party to CETA.

Made in Italy’ food has been betrayed, ‘first and foremost’ by the Italian government, which concluded the negotiations and voted on the agreement, in the Council, without considering the serious critical issues for the Italian agri-food chain or raising any objections whatsoever. With the complicity of the MEPs who voted in Strasbourg on 15.5.17 to ratify the understanding, (9) but especially that of the agricultural confederations. Which could not ‘not know’ or ‘not understand’ and instead kept silent, except – as in the pathetic case of the millionaire president of the first of them – to file ‘next-day’ complaints. And he is already distracted by the controversy over the closure of the Campagna Amica market just a stone’s throw from the Colosseum when billionaire Warren Buffet is about to bomb the planet of Kraft ‘Parmesan.

It’s every man for himself!

Dario Dongo


(1) Cf. CETA Agreement, Annex 20-A, http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-10973-2016-ADD-5/en/pdf. The choice of 41 specialties, moreover, is not always easy to understand (an understatement)

(2) Agreement, Art. 20.21.5

(3) Agreement, Art. 20.21.7

(4) Reg. EU 1151/2012, Art. 13(Protection)

(5) Agreement, Art. 20.22

(6) g. EU 1151/2012, recital 20

(7) As already established in the WTO agreement, and reflected in the EU Customs Code.

(8) Annex 6, Protocol on Rules of Origin and Procedures of Origin, Articles 2 and 5, http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-10973-2016-ADD-6/en/pdf

(9) The names are cited in the last note to the previous article https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/ceta-la-sciagura-transatlantica/