Where Feta is on a map

The US is again looking to erode the use of protected designations of origins (PDOs) globally, it seems. Last week, 61 US senators sent US Trade representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer and US Agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue a letter, urging stronger international safeguards to protect US exporters using common food and wine terms. The letter requests that the US government enhances iys common food name protections as a core policy objective in all trade-related discussions.

I doubt much will be done in the area of trade until at least early next year from the US, given the current state of affairs in the country there.

That being said, I applaud the trade negotiators on all sides, who often work quietly, without much praise, and often some hindrance, from whatever administration happens to in charge at the moment. People who understand these things know the enormous amount of time and effort it takes to get that piece of paper onto the table for a trade agreement between countries. Years go by.

So, PDOs. While I think it’s important for countries to protect their markets and to have exports, I do also like a PDO myself. I want to be assured that the Yorkshire Wensleydale is indeed Wensleydale, or PDO Stilton is from the area it says on the paperwork. I know a lot of work goes into obtaining these coveted designations by the makers of these products.

But the US does have a point about some other, less clear, PDOs. Such as the one on Greek Feta, and this is where things can get somewhat cloudy. In February 2015, Tom Vilsack, then the US agriculture secretary (and now president and CO of the US Dairy Export Council), participated in a public forum with his counterpart in Europe, Phil Hogan, then the EU Commissioner of agricultural and rural development, and who is now the EU’s commissioner for trade. Turning to Hogan, Vilsack said he was still “waiting to see on a map where Feta is.”

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