Wine, cheese, and the high life: Trade barriers, geographical indications, and other challenges to free trade in coveted agricultural products

International Trade

Whether in the multilateral or FTA context, discussions of international trade in farm products typically focus on the three pillars treated in the WTO Agriculture Agreement: market access; domestic support; and export subsidies. All are relevant to all farm goods, from apples and cotton to sorghum and wheat. But, there is much more to liberalising trade in special agricultural sectors, because not all farm goods are alike. GIs are demanded by some interest groups. But, no international registry exists, nor is there any agreed upon list of what products deserve an indication. Regulatory standards, including SPS measures, are used to maintain quality, and protect health. But, they are not harmonised, and thus the subject of frequent disputes. Cutting across all such matters is a changed reality in the international political economy: new, non-western entrants, such as Malaysia (halal certification) and India (wine production), seek entry into markets traditionally dominated by western countries. What types of farm products truly are special? Should traditional ways of life and culture matter in defining “special,” and thus (for instance) differentiating dairy and rice from peanuts and soybeans? Is there a national security argument for certain designations? What kinds of protections do they deserve? How can such protections be crafted to avoid being protectionist? What role do and should SOEs and STEs play in importing and exporting special products? Ultimately, what importance should be given to special products – should an entire trade deal be held up, or even scuppered, over wine and cheese? (Pun intended.) This panel will explore these and related questions.

Topic 1: Special products and the needs and interests of developing and least developed countries - Corey Norton

Topic 2: International trade in wine - Rafael Vergara

Topic 3: International trade in dairy, sugar, tobacco, and other sensitive agricultural products - Beau Jackson

Topic 4: American and EU approaches to collective trademarks and geographical indications - Brett Williams

Topic 5: Special treatment: it’s not just agricultural products: international trade in cultural products: A case study of the film industry - Bruce Aitken

Suggested Readings: Pankaj Mishra, Welcome to the Age of Anger, The Guardian, 8 December 2016


  • Raj Bhala, University of Kansas, School of Law


  • Bruce Aitken, Trade Negotiations Training Center Inc
  • Beau Jackson, Adduci, Mastriani & Schaumberg, LLP
  • Corey Norton, Trade Pacific Law
  • Rafael Vergara, Carey Cia. Limitada
  • Brett Williams, Williams Trade Law

Supported by

NZ Law Society

Supported by


Supported by

100% Pure New Zealand

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