WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The European Union and the United States signed a bilateral wine accord today in London, confirming the proprietary nature of European wine names such as Port, Sherry and Champagne.

According to a news release from the Delegation of the European Commission to the U.S., 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 United States, the release said, which is by far the EU's largest export market.

Annual EU wine exports to the United States 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 United States and the EU can resolve important and complex issues through bilateral negotiations and both sides are committed to doing so in the future, the release said. The EU and U.S. 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 U.S. 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."

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 U.S. Under the agreement, their use will be limited in the U.S. The U.S. undertakes to change their legal status to restrict their use in future to wine originating in the EU.

  • Existing U.S. winemaking practices not covered by EU derogations are accepted. However, it will only be possible for the U.S. to export such wines after the status of the semi-generic names has been changed. New U.S. wine-making practices will be analyzed 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 U.S. certification requirements.

  • The U.S. and EU have agreed to resolve bilateral issues through informal bilateral consultations rather than through formal dispute settlement mechanisms.

  • Given that this is only a first-phase agreement, some clear perspectives for the second and more ambitious phase are spelled 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 agreement.

  • More information on the above can be found online.

    SOURCE: Delegation of the European Commission to the U.S. via PR Newswire.