China has given official recognition to Cognac's geographical indication - marking a first for a European product and guaranteeing better protection against counterfeiting for the French beverage in the country.

China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), confirmed the decision in a brief statement on its Internet site yesterday (21 December), "according to a Memorandum of Understanding signed on 5 September 2005" between AQSIQ and the European Commision Trade Directorate.

The announcement came as French Prime Minister François Fillon embarked on a state visit to China.

Exports of Cognac to China in the first nine months of 2009 increased by 42.4% in volume and by 14.1% in value on the corresponding period last year, according to figures issued by the French wines and spirits federation, FEVS.