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IP/06/294

Brussels, 10 March 2006

EU-US wine accord will help EU wine trade with US

The European Union and the United States today in London signed a bilateral wine accord which will bring major benefits for EU wine producers. The agreement, which was approved by EU agriculture ministers in December 2005, follows 20 years of negotiation. It will help EU winemakers to build on their current success in the US, which is by far the EU’s largest export market. Annual EU wine exports to the US are worth more than 2 billion euros, around 40 percent of EU exports in terms of value. This agreement provides a clear demonstration that the US and the EU can resolve important and complex issues through bilateral negotiations and both sides are committed to doing so in the future. The EU and US will start talks within 90 days on a more ambitious second-phase agreement.

“I’m delighted that this agreement can finally enter into force, and I raise my glass to the negotiators for their efforts,” said Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. “This deal will facilitate access for EU wines to the lucrative US market, where consumers greatly appreciate the quality and long history behind our wines. In today’s increasingly competitive market place, it is vital that there are no unnecessary and burdensome barriers for our winemakers, who I believe are the best in the world. The EU attaches great importance to the proper protection of its geographical indications abroad.”

Negotiators from the EU and US finally reached agreement at the end of last summer and the agreement was initialled in Washington on 14 September 2005.

The main elements of the agreement are:

  • Some European wine names, such as Port, Sherry and Champagne, are currently considered as semi-generics in the US. Under the agreement, their use will be limited in the US. The US undertakes to change their legal status to restrict their use in future to wine originating in the EU.
  • Existing US winemaking practices not covered by EU derogations are accepted. However, it will only be possible for the US to export such wines after the status of the semi-generic names has been changed. New US wine-making practices will be analysed and only accepted in the EU in the event that no objection is raised. This is not mutual recognition.
  • EU wines are also exempted from the 2004 US certification requirements.
  • The US and EU have agreed to resolve bilateral issues through informal bilateral consultations rather than through formal dispute settlement mechanisms.
  • Given that this in only a first phase agreement, some clear perspectives for the second and more ambitious phase are spelt out. There is a clear commitment to start the negotiations for the second phase agreement no later than 90 days after the entry into force of this

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