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Commitments on geographical indications (GI) in the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement

09:48 | 2/8/2016 |  0 Feedback
Geographical Indications (GI) for national products are vital trade instruments to preserve the brand identity for a region’s traditional products, agriculture, and culture.

In Vietnam’s domestic market there are 43 GI protected, nationally produced products. So far, only one of these products, Phu Quoc fish sauce, has GI status in the EU. Once the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) takes effect, the EU will recognize and protect in total 39 Vietnamese GIs.

On June 29th in Hanoi and July 1st 2016 in Ho Chi Minh City, the EU-MUTRAP project and the National Office of Intellectual Property of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) organized a workshop on ”Commitments on geographical indications in the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement”. The workshop aimed to increase awareness about EVFTA’s commitments on GI, and intellectual property rights (IPRs), and some best practices for managing GI products in Vietnam. 

Mr. Tran Viet Thanh, Vice Minister of MOST and Director General of NOIP, highlighted that Vietnam has a lot of products with distinctive quality and reputation linked to their regional geographical origin; there is tremendous opportunity for GI protection of Vietnam’s traditional products. However, the country lags in awareness of the benefits for claiming GI status. Furthermore, there are short-comings in the government’s system for managing products legally protected under GIs. Public awareness remains low, and there is limited capacity at the sub-national level to enforce GI protection and ensure consistent quality.

Ms. Jana Herceg, Deputy Head of the Economics & Trade Section, EU Delegation to Vietnam, said, "Following the conclusion of negotiations in December 2015, the European Union and Vietnam have worked very closely in many activities. We have organized seminars just to make sure stakeholders, businesses; administrations understand what it is all about.” In terms of geographical indications, in her opinion, Vietnam needs a better management policy framework and GI owners need to ensure product quality combined with better marketing strategies. She reaffirmed that the EU supports Vietnamese products with GIs registered in the EU.

According to Mr. Luu Duc Thanh, Head of GIs and International Trademarks Division, NOIP, the EVFTA protects 169 EU GIs and 39 Vietnamese GIs, including agricultural products, foodstuffs, wines, and spirits. Under the EU-VFTA, the signatories agree to greater protection of GIs than under TRIPS in WTO.

As said by Mr. Dao Duc Huan, Director of Rural Development Center, Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development, current difficulties in protection of GI in Vietnam include the absence of detailed regulations on GI management at the central level (such as, the procedures for granting the use of GI, control mechanism ...), and the lack of legal bases for controlling the use of GIs. Besides, Vietnamese GIs,  though having the tremendous potential from increased use, are yet to become identity signs in the market, while registration and legal protection of that identity in a key foreign market.is very limited due to the lack of financial resources.

Ms. Delphine Marie-Vivien, a French expert on the CIRAD project, said that she believed it was necessary to have a comprehensive vision of GI management from the drafting of applications to post-registration protection.

Attending the workshop were representatives of associations and companies with GI protected products, namely the Phu Quoc fish sauce association, Buon Ma Thuot coffee association, Moc Chau Tea Company, Tan Diep Company (Ha Long grilled chopped cuttlefish). These businesses shared their experiences of GI, from the application process, the benefits of the system, and areas for improvement.

Speakers and participants put forward recommendations for government to better manage and control of Vietnamese GI products. These recommendations include development of a legal system for management and control of GI products at the national level, development of management organization models appropriate for product characteristics and conditions, and development of a proper GI control and enforcement system.

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