The European Commission (EC) is urging its Philippine counterpart to include the use of geographical indications (GI) in the proposed European Union-Philippines free-trade agreement (EU).
Geographical indications, according to the World Trade Organization, are place names (in some countries also words associated with a place) used to identify the origin and quality, reputation or other characteristics of products.
Guy Ledoux, head of the EU Delegation to the Philippines, said the use of GI will boost the export potential of Philippine goods, especially agricultural products, particularly in increasing the commercial value of certain exports.
“Aside from better market access, you can increase profit through a GI that may apply to any type of good. The GI is a distinctive sign that a product is originating from a territory in a country when a given quality or reputation of the good is attributable to the origin,” Ledoux explained.
GI, a type of intellectual property, is a mark used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or reputation that are due to that origin. In order to function as a GI, a sign must identify a product as originating in a given place.
Well-known examples of GI are Bordeaux wine, Darjeeling tea and Tuscany olive oil.
Ledoux said registration for GI is important given that the country has just gained approval from the EU for the Generalized System of Preferences Plus (EU-GSP+).
He said among those that will be covered by the EU-GSP+ are food products and processed food. These products are eligible for registration, subject to GI standards.
GI-registered products, Ledoux said, can be twice as valuable as their non-GI counterparts and, thus, can fetch more profits for the producers and farmers.
GI products can also serve as effective marketing and tourism tools for the country. For the Philippines, GI can be used for Lucban Longganisa, Sarap Sarangani, Yaman Gensan and Capiz Quality seal and Logo.
“For the Philippines, food exports to EU amounted to some €800 million last year, 17 percent more than 2013. Not only will the Philippines have more access due to the EU-GSP+, but with the GI, the value can actually double,” Ledoux said.
In Europe estimated sales of GI products reached € 54.3 billion, and 15 percent of the food and beverage exports are GI protected.
However, to take advantage of having GI products, regulation must be in place to protect it, a mandate of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL).
Ledoux said the EU supports the country’s move to improve regulations and legislation for intellectual property protection.
Similarly, GI protection is needed as Laurent Lourdais, the director general for Agriculture at the Asean desk at the EC, noted that a possible FTA to be entered into by the Philippines with the EU must include a GI Chapter to be able to impact the export potential of the Philippines.
“The GI Chapter is a must-have in the FTA. Today the Philippines should be ready to deal with GIs to get a good FTA outcome. There is a link between GI and market access chapters, we cannot avoid it,” noted Lourdais in his presentation.
“Philippine legislation on GIs will have an impact on the FTA outcome, and on the export value. In the legislation we have to avoid low level of protection, and ensure reinforcement of IP protection is constant,” Lourdais said.
Registration for GI is conferred by IPOPHL under the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines (RA 8293). However, legislation for tighter GI protection, according to Pablo Gancayco of renowned IP firm Gancayco Balasbas and Associates, there is indeed a dearth.
Part and parcel of maximizing GI, however, is market access to the EU, added Undersecretary for Agriculture Segfredo R. Serrano, who emphasized the full implementation of the Food Safety Act to meet standards.
“Even if tariffs are zero, the EU is a sophisticated market and a relatively high-income market. There are standards and requirements, conventions and agreements on product standards and sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards. We have to understand the requirements of the EU,” Serrano said.