The US dairy industry praised the results of recent meetings with China where officials committed to stronger protections for common food names, including cheese, according to the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA).

The association says the recent US-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade meetings should facilitate the export of products such as Feta and Parmesan cheese to China, a large and fast-growing market for US dairy products.

“We are extremely pleased that the United States and China have agreed to strong protections for products using these well-established cheese names as we seek to expand exports to this key market,” says Tom Suber, president of the US Dairy Export Council.

Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, thanked US negotiators for recognizing the importance of common name preservation to US exports.

“The outcome of the meetings is a great example of the progress that can result from frank and productive collaboration between two trading partners,” says Connie Tipton, president and CEO of the IDFA.

The debate over common food names, particularly cheese, in their relationship to geographical indications (GIs) has been a hot topic of discussion this year. In 2014, the European Union pushed efforts to impose bans on the use of Feta, Parmesan, Asiago, Muenster and other common cheese names in international trade unless the products are manufactured in Europe. IDFA says the EU is using talks like those underway for a Trans-Atlantic free trade agreement to impose these bans and is seeking GI-specific agreements with individual countries, including China.

In October, IDFA opposed the European Union-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), arguing the agreement contains provisions on GIs and reallocates a portion of the World Trade Organization tariff rate quota for cheese to the EU, which would create trade barriers for the US dairy industry and limit its access to the Canadian market.

As a result of GIs, future cheese producers will be required to add qualifiers such as “style” or “kind” on those particular cheeses.

Representatives of the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) met in Geneva for the 2014 World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) meetings where they raised concern about proposals to expand the Lisbon Agreement, an international system for geographical indications.

The consortium calls the current draft of the proposals “overly broad and vague” and argues the proposal under debate could “severely impede the global use of common names for many cheeses, meats, beverages and other foods, across many more countries. This would put at greater risk the markets developed by many small food producers in developing countries and throughout the world.”