The Italian Embassy in Washington organized the symposium “Geographical Indications: Opportunities and Challenges” on Geographical Indications and Denominations of Protected Origin. Members of the main Italian consortia and representatives of American regional products attended the event. At the outset Ambassador Armando Varricchio recalled how “opening our economies to trade and investments has always been the cornerstone of the collaboration between the USA and Europe” and also a “tool to ensure that our standards are protected in an increasingly competitive global market “. Within this framework – the Ambassador underlined – geographical indications “do not constitute a trade barrier, but rather an indispensable tool to protect producers and consumers, through authenticity, transparency and quality”.
Isaura Andaluz of American Origin Products Association and New Mexico Chili Nativo and Attilo Zanetti, Vice President of the European Dairy Products Association and President of Assolatte, also took the floor during the introductory session. The symposium continued with a debate among the representatives of five important Italian consortia (Grana Padano, Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, Pecorino Romano, Asiago and Prosciutto di Parma) and two American associations (Idaho Potato Commission, Vermont Maple Syrup) and a representative from the Consortium for Common Food Names. The debate displayed some partially differing views, while at the same time acknowledging the importance of Geographical Indications. The discussion highlighted the importance that both sides of the Atlantic attach to quality agriculture, competitiveness, transparency, environmental sustainability and consumer protection. All features that can allow for further growth in the agricultural sector, an increase in exports and the creation of jobs both in the United States and in Europe. These same features should allow to defend the sector from counterfeiting and unfair competition. The debate also discussed the challenges in terms of greater investments, innovation, new technologies (such as blockchain), research and development in a sector where tradition has always been accompanied, especially in Italy, by creativity and a yearning for new goals and frontiers. The event was followed by tasting of Italian Denominations of Protected Origin (Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, Pecorino Romano e Toscano, Prosciutto di Parma e Toscano, Gorgonzola, Asiago) and of American regional products (Idaho Potatoes, Vermont Maple Syrup, New Mexico Chili Nativo), with Prosecco, offered by the Consortium, and Italian mineral water.
Italy boosts about 930 registered trademarks, including 603 wines, 291 food products and 37 alcoholic beverages. As a whole, the Italian food industry is worth more than 200 billion euros and represents 12% of Italy’s GDP, and is a driving force for the entire economy. Italian food exports in the USA, including wines and sparkling wines, is worth over 5 billion USD (data for 2018), with strong growth trends. The USA is the third market worldwide for the Italian food industry and Italy is at the top of the list of exporters in the USA for cheeses, cured meats, olive oil, pasta, coffee, mineral waters and preserves.
The symposium was preceded by a coordination meeting organized by the Embassy with the Italian Trade Agency in New York, in the
presence of Director General for International Trade at the Minister for Economic Development Amedeo Teti, importers of Italian products and entrepreneurs of the Italian agro-food sector operating in the USA. The meeting reviewed the results of 2019 also in light of the tariffs imposed by the US in mid-October and now subject to a first review in February, and offered an opportunity to share the activities foreseen by the Embassy to defend Italian producers. The meeting also outlined the guidelines for the promotion of Italian exports in the USA for 2020, also thanks to the new synergies between the Embassy and the Italian Trade Agency network when the competencies over the agencies will be handed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation starting January 1, 2020.
The symposium, organized by the Embassy in collaboration with the Institute for Foreign Trade and the Italian Association of Geographical Indication Consortia (OriGIn) and American Origin Products (AOP) was also made possible by contributions from the following partners.