What the Free Trade with EU Means for Businesses in Australia

Category: Trademark Information

The impetus for the European Union and Australia to enter a free trade agreement (FTA) returns amidst Britain’s exit from the EU and the US’ pending negotiations with the EU on steel tariffs. The FTA is expected to boost both economies by $15 billion and will greatly benefit Australia’s service and agri-food industries.

From Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in April, it was announced that the EU leaders will soon vote whether to enter negotiations. To date, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have voiced their support for the EU-AU trade. EU Commission President Juncker has also committed to finalising the agreement within 18 months.

The Catch

European farmers, particularly farmers from France and Italy, are anxious about the import of Australian beef and Australian producers’ use of ‘geographical indicators’ such as ‘parmesan’ and ‘feta’ for their products.

Cecilia Malmstrom, The EU’s lead trade negotiator, warns that European farmers expect Australian producers to accede to discontinue using geographic identifiers in their food labels.

As for European farmer’s concern about the Australian beef import, Malmstrom believes that the unease is manageable as Australia’s trade with Asian countries greatly depletes the amount of Australian beef that will reach Europe.

This leaves Australian producers with the concern, however, that they might have to remove iconic terms in their hams, wines and cheese labels.

What Should Producers Do?

In the early 2000s, when the EU was introducing strict limitations on using the word ‘feta’, the award-winning family enterprise Meredith Dairy made a pre-emptive call and stopped labelling their goat cheese products as feta.

So as not to lose their brand’s level of popularity, they transitioned into completely removing the word ‘feta’ from their label. For a time, the company placed two names on their labels so that the consumers would still recognise their brand.

When interviewed by The Age regarding the company’s move, Meredith Dairy founder Julie Cameron stated they thought it was inevitable for the company to use the word feta so they chose to re-label their products to ensure brand longevity.

With the expected approval of the EU-AU FTA, dairy, ham and wine producers are likely to consider doing similar changes for their products to enter the European market.

How Pinnacle Can Help

Entering a free trade agreement has its pros and cons. Apart from the strong possibility that producers will be pressured to discontinue use of ‘geographic identifiers’, the increased number of competition also strengthens the need for protecting intellectual property rights.

With years of experience in all aspects of trademark registration, Pinnacle TMS can help. We’ve helped businesses protect their brands both locally and overseas with a range of trademark services.

Our owner Suzanne Harrington has worked with overseas trademark attorneys to help businesses secure global trademark registrations.

Providing our clients with an Initial Protection Review and Strategy Report – a report unique to Pinnacle TMS – we help businesses determine if their mark is not yet registered by other parties, saving significant time and money.

For unbiased and professional help from true Trademark Specialists, book a consultation today.