The Greek government is ready to veto the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal unless its feta cheese industry receives special protections.
A document from the country’s Ministry of Economy, seen by Euractiv.com, says Athens is not optimistic about the deal’s future due to America’s stance on so-called “geographical indicators”.
These restrict the use of a word to a product from a specific place. Currently, EU law says only cheese made from sheep’s milk, or a mixture of sheep’s and goat’s milk, in Greece can be described as “feta”.
However, numerous cheeses made elsewhere in a similar method can also be marketed as “feta” in the United States. The Greek government wants to stop this, as it believes it harms its own feta industry.
United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has admitted that geographical indicators are a sticking point in the ongoing negotiations.
“This is not an easy issue. It’s an issue that is going to require a lot of work, and some very creative thinking to be able to navigate this thicket where you want to protect value, but you don’t want to do it at the expense of products that have been marketed under that name for a considerable period of time,” he said.
The Greek government document it will not accept a deal where its distinctive agricultural products are treated as “generic”. Instead, it wants to make sure that similar products manufactured elsewhere cannot take the traditional Greek names.
Agriculture forms a significant part of Greece’s struggling economy, and the government says high-quality agricultural products help sustain rural communities and create jobs in related industries.
“Feta cheese should be definitely protected from unfair competition,” an official said, adding that due to worldwide demand for the cheese, it has enormous potential for the Greek economy.
Earlier this month, confidential documents were leaked by environmentalist group Greenpeace, as both left and right wing activists came together to oppose the deal.
Greenpeace alleges that the deal threatens consumer protections and environmental regulations, a concern increasingly echoed across Europe.