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European Law Monitor newsEuropean Commission and Australia initial new wine agreement

On 6 June 2007 the European Commission and Australian negotiators initialled a new bilateral agreement on trade in wine at a ceremony in Canberra. The initialling is the result of long and detailed negotiations to replace the current agreement, which dates from 1994. It must now be approved by the Council of Ministers and the Australian authorities, before being signed. The agreement safeguards the EU's wine labelling regime, gives full protection to EU geographical indications, including for wines intended to be exported, and includes a clear Australian commitment to protect EU traditional expressions. It will also provide for the phasing out by Australia of the use of a number of important EU names such as Champagne and Port within a year of the agreement coming into force.

"I am delighted that we have been able to finalise our negotiations with such an important trade partner and I commend this agreement to the Member States," said Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. "This accord safeguards EU interests by establishing principles for the protection of GIs and traditional expressions and protecting our wine labelling regime."

The agreement makes many improvements to the 1994 accord. It covers essential EU interests such as improving the oenological practices regime, including clear time frames, and objection and arbitration procedures. The new agreement also foresees clearer criteria for the evaluation of new oenological practices, including sanitary and phytosanitary requirements.

It provides for a full protection of EU geographical indications, including for wines for export. It will provide for the phasing out by Australia of the use of a number of important EU names such as Champagne and Port within one year from the entry into force of the agreement. It safeguards the EU wine labelling regime, by listing optional particulars which may be used by Australian wines (i.e. an indication of vine varieties, an indication relating to an award, medal or competition, an indication relating to a specific colours, etc.), regulating the indication of vine varieties on wine labels, and eliminating the use within one year after the entry into force of the agreement of some of these vine varieties (i.e. Hermitage, Lumbrusco).

On traditional terms, the agreement provides for protection in Australia of EU traditional expressions. Australia will be able to use some of these traditional expressions, which correspond to quality wine terms in Australia defined in the Agreement. Finally, on certification, the Commission agrees to authorise simplified certification provisions as provided for under EU legislation.

EU wine exports to Australia were worth €62 million in 2006 and imports from Australia were worth €868 million.

Reproduced with the permission of the European Commission REF IP/07/771