Protected foods such as Scotch whisky and salmon could be at risk of cheaper imitations.
The report by the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) studied how the UK’s departure from the EU might affect the UK’s existing Geographical Indications.
The EU recognises two types of GIs for foodstuffs, which are protected by EU law – Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication. They are used to safeguard products associated with a specific location, quality and reputation. This is because specific land and weather conditions are intertwined with the products qualities.
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Examples include Scotch whisky, Stornoway black pudding, Orkney island cheddar, Shetland lamb, Orkney lamb, Orkney beef and Scottish salmon.
According to Scottish Government statistics, the food and drink sector in Scotland had total sales of £13.9 billion in 2016. Total exports from the Food & Drink sector stood at £10.1 billion in 2016, accounting for 13.4% of Scotland’s total exports. Whilst not all Scotland’s food and drink exports are made up of GI branded products, farmed salmon forms an important part of Scotland’s exports.
In theory, a trade deal the US could mean that the UK would be asked to drop current EU requirements on certain foodstuff, thus enabling US manufacturers to promote rival products. The United States operates a system based on trademarks rather than GIs, though they do have GIs for wines and spirits.
The SPICe research found:“If the UK continues to follow the EU model of GIs, there may be difficulty with negotiating a UK-US Trade Agreement.”
Importance of GI status for business
Highlighted in the report, on the status of GIs in future trade negotiations with non-EU countries, Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing – who has raised the issues to parliament, said;
“As you are more than aware, we have been critical of the failure by the UK Government to put forward any UK GIs for inclusion in the CETA deal with Canada and a lack of consultation around other deals such as Mercosur and Mexico. We are sure you will easily understand the Scottish Government’s, and many of our stakeholders’, concern in the current climate that the UK Government simply does not recognise the importance of GI status for business. Coupled with the absence of any reference whatsoever to food and drink from your recent statement on trade collaboration with Hong Kong, it gives the impression that your Government cares little for this sector.”