Will New ‘Breakthrough’ EU Agreement Protect S.A. Trademarks?

By Dana Sanchez Published: July 22, 2014, 4:58 pm
rooibos teaRooibos farm Photo: africanrooibostea.com

The Southern African Development Community is expected to sign a “breakthrough” economic partnership agreement — a decade in the making — with the European Union giving member countries greater access to the EU market on certain products, Xinhua reports, according to BusinessStandard.

If ratified, the agreement will offer South Africa some trademark protection by banning EU products from being labeled with the words “karoo lamb,” “rooibos” and “honeybush tea.”

It has been an issue. The South African Rooibos Council took steps in July 2013 to protect the rooibos name internationally, according to a report in BusinessDayLive, according to an earlier AFKInsider report.

Council Director Martin Bergh said in the BusinessDayLive report the European Union would not grant protection against companies trying to register or copyright names if they were not protected in their country of origin. “This is the start of a process that will enable us to apply for geographical indicator status, much like champagne, Darjeeling tea, basmati rice and Colombian coffee,” he said. “It will prevent future instances of overseas companies attempting to trademark the generic brand name for their own commercial gain.”

The “new and improved” EU agreement announced this week will also eliminate export subsidies on agricultural goods destined for the region, according to Rob Davies, South African Trade and Industry Minister.

South Africawill gain access to 32 agricultural and dairy products and increased wine exports duty free, Davies said this week in Cape Town.

“What we have obtained from this agreement is that there are more opportunities for us to sell sugar, wine, ethanol and some fruit products than before and that could create jobs,” he said.

The agreement also imposes flexible export taxes on certain products.

Hailed as an economic breakthrough, the agreement took a decade to negotiate. But there are concerns over the trade balance between the EU and South Africa — it’s five billion rand (about $472 million US) in favor of the EU.

The trade balance is likely to keep widening as South Africa faces strict regulations for citrus exports due to the blackspot fungal syndrome.

The agreement will only become effective once it is ratified by the cabinet and Parliament.

The 14 member countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) include Angola, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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