Grocery items to disappear from shelves
AN "AMBITIOUS" free trade agreement with the European Union could force hundreds of products to be removed from Australian grocery shelves and renamed, including scotch beef, feta and gruyere.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has appealed to local producers and businesses to help the Federal Government nail down a list of demands from its northern hemisphere partner.
His office released a list of names the EU wants protected as part of the deal due to geographical relevance incorporated in the names - known as geographical indicators.
It would be a major blow to Australian cheesemakers who wouldn't be able to use terms such as feta, gruyere and gorgonzola to name their products.
The packaging of products such as mozzarella cheese may also need to be changed so it doesn't look too similar to European brands.
"We will only do a deal with the EU if it's in Australia's national interest to do so," Mr Birmingham told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday. "What we will do is drive the best possible bargain."
The minister told the ABC Australia didn't like the idea of geographical indicators but this was a "not-negotiable element from the European Union".
"We will put up a strong fight in terms of areas of Australian interests, and ultimately, what we're trying to do is get the best possible deal that ensures Australian businesses and farmers can get better access to a market engaging 500 million potential consumers."
The EU's list of names features more than 200 products and includes a broad range of beers, spirits, meats and cheeses.
Greek, Croatian and Spanish varieties of olive oil are listed, as is Italian ham, a range of British meats, French mustard, German and Czech beer.
Cheese terms brie and camembert are not included but specific names such as Brie de Meaux and Camembert de Normandie are.
Similarly, prosciutto is not included but Prosciutto di Parma, Prosciutto di San Daniele and Prosciutto Toscano are asked to be protected.
Italian wine producers had pushed for prosecco to also be protected, but the use of wine names had already been settled in a previous trade agreement.
"Our view is that we negotiated over those wine terms all those years ago, and there's no need to reopen them," Mr Birmingham said.
Europe boasts 500 million consumers with the region already Australia's third largest export market. Mr Birmingham said the agreement presented an opportunity for local producers to extend their reach.
"Whilst we understand the importance the EU places on geographical indications, our priority is ensuring our farmers and businesses can get better market access and be more competitive in the EU," the trade minister said in a statement on Tuesday.
"This consultation process will help us better understand the views of Australian industry, which will assist us in our ongoing discussions with the EU on why their requested protection of certain terms will not be acceptable in some cases.
"Ultimately, we will only do this deal if overall it is in Australia's interests to do so."
Mr Birmingham expects negotiations will wrap up next year.