Grassley among senators urging support for cheese exporters - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Grassley among senators urging support for cheese exporters

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WASHINGTON, D.C.  Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today joined a bipartisan group of senators, led by Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, to urge U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to ensure Mexico honors its existing trade commitments and rejects the EU’s unfair trade proposal that will harm American cheese exporters, processors and dairy farmers.

On April 21, 2018, the European Union (EU) and Mexico reached a trade agreement that grants European producers exclusive rights to use 340 food names, known as ‘geographical indications,’ in Mexico. Afterward, media reports indicated that the agreement included many food names—most notably of cheeses—considered generic in the United States. The bipartisan group of senators are expressing concerns with this agreement and the devastating impact it could have on American cheese exports to Mexico.

“In order to meet this objective, the United States must engage with Mexico on geographic indication restrictions to ensure that Mexico honors its existing trade commitments to the United States,” the senators wrote. “These commitments allow American cheese exporters to continue using food names that Mexican consumers are familiar with. Anything less would grant European producers market share that American producers took decades to build and unjustly award them the future growth opportunities of those products. We appreciate your attention to this matter and stand ready to work with you to protect American cheese exports.”

Mexico is the largest export destination for American cheese, accounting for around one third of the $1.3 billion in dairy products the United States exported to Mexico last year. If Mexico grants European cheese producers exclusive rights to use common cheese names, as reports indicate it has agreed to do, American producers could lose market share they have spent years developing.

Geographical indications link a product to a particular region, associating that product to a geographic area because of a certain characteristic or reputation. The EU has aggressively pursued restrictions for cheeses, such as feta (Greece), Munster (France) and parmesan (Italy), in their international trade policies. While these names are covered as geographic indications within the EU, they are generic in the United States and in numerous other countries around the world.

In addition to Grassley, Baldwin and Toomey, the letter was signed by Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Bob Casey (D-Penn.).

The full letter is available here.

An online version of this release is available here.

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