Sens. Roberts and Baldwin Fight to Protect U.S. Producers Against Ridiculous EU Trade Demands on Names of Meat Products

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), joined by Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and others, fought attempts by the European Union (EU) to impair U.S. trade by restricting the ability of U.S. producers to use the common names of meat products like bologna and black forest ham at home and abroad.

“This is totally ridiculous,” Senator Roberts said. “We cannot let the European Union slant the playing field to their advantage through absurd restrictions on what a food can be named. American producers should not be blocked from trading with other nations, especially those we have free-trade agreements with, based simply on what we name our product.”

“Wisconsin has a long tradition and proud reputation in our cheese making and meat producing. These industries are vital to our state’s economy and our heritage,” said Senator Baldwin. “The current trade negotiations with the European Union threaten not only the names of common state products, but also key drivers of our Wisconsin economy. We must restrict any proposal that limits our Wisconsin businesses’ ability to export and compete both domestically and internationally. I am standing up for Wisconsin brats and cheese.”

"The EU is at it again," said Senator Toomey. "First, they want to stop Pennsylvania’s dairy producers from using some common cheese names. Now they are going after meat producers. Most Americans just want to fix their kids a bologna and cheese sandwich without ridiculous EU trade guidelines that could be confusing and threaten Pennsylvania jobs. These guidelines would impose barriers to U.S. sausage and processed meat exports under the pretext of protecting European regional production. I urge the USDA and the USTR to fight back against any attempt by the EU to restrict the use of these familiar brand names. Americans have no appetite for European protectionist policies."

“America’s meat and other food manufacturers work hard to develop a product and brand that resonates with their customers,” Senator Portman said. “If the EU succeeds in establishing trade guidelines that would restrict branding, it will take a bite out of U.S. exports and hurt jobs here in Ohio. I urge the Administration to continue working aggressively to ensure the EU doesn’t impede U.S. businesses' ability to compete domestically or internationally.”

Roberts and Baldwin sent a bipartisan letter, signed by 43 other Senators to the U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack urging them to continue to resist efforts by the EU to use geographical indication restrictions to impair U.S. meat domestic sales and exports.

The following is the text of the letter:

We write today to urge your continued fight against geographical indication (GI) restrictions promoted by the European Union (EU). This trade barrier is of great concern to meat and other food manufacturers in our states. Currently, the EU is attempting to directly impair United States competition by imposing GI restrictions through the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

We urge you to continue to push back against the EU’s efforts to restrict our meat exports, particularly to nations with which we already have free trade agreements (FTAs). We urge you to make clear to your EU counterparts that the United States will reject any proposal in TTIP negotiations that would in any way restrict the ability of U.S. producers to use common meat names, such as bologna or black forest ham.

In country after country, the EU has been using its FTAs to persuade trading partners to impose barriers to U.S. exports under the guise of protecting GIs. This trade-damaging practice is concerning anywhere, but it is most troubling where the U.S. has an established FTA or is actively negotiating a new agreement. For example, as part of their recently implemented FTA with the EU, countries in Central America agreed to impose new restrictions on the use of “bologna”, effectively closing an export opportunity that the U.S.-Central America FTA opened for U.S. companies. Similar trade barriers are being imposed in other parts of Latin America and are also under discussion in many Asian countries involved in negotiations with the EU.

In the states that we represent, businesses – many small to medium-sized and family owned – could have their businesses unfairly restricted by the EU’s push to use GIs as a barrier to trade and competition. We are concerned that these restrictions would particularly impact smaller businesses who specialize in artisan and other specialty meat products such as bratwurst, kielbasa, wiener schnitzel and various sausages. TTIP is ultimately intended to improve the economic climate on both sides of the Atlantic by lowering barriers to trade. With that in mind, we strongly oppose the EU’s gratuitous use of GIs as a protectionist measure.

We ask that USTR and USDA continue to work aggressively to ensure the EU’s GI efforts on commonly used meat product names do not impair the ability of U.S. businesses to compete both domestically and internationally. We ask you to make this a top priority through official TTIP, Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and bilateral negotiations.

The initiative has broad support among producer and industry groups including: American Association of Meat Processors, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Meat Institute, Cargill, Incorporated, Consortium for Common Food Names, Food Marketing Institute, Grocery Manufacturers Association, Hormel Foods Corporation, International Dairy Foods Association, JBS USA, Kraft Foods Group, Inc. (Oscar Mayer), Massachusetts Food Association, National Association of Manufacturers, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation, North American Meat Association, Ohio Grocers Association, Seaboard Corporation, Smithfield Foods, The Hillshire Brands Company, Tyson Foods, Inc., U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Dairy Export Council, William James and Associates, LLC.

Senator Roberts is a senior member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and is a member of the Senate Committee on Finance which has jurisdiction over trade.