EU: EU-US wine treaty approved despite objections
The European Union has approved the deal struck with the US in September over wine imports, production methods and the use of semi-generic names, in spite of objections from some member states including Germany.
Austria, Greece, Lithuania and Portugal also opposed the deal, provisionally agreed in September, but it went through anyway as it did not require unanimous consent from all member states.
The deal is aimed at settling a 20-year dispute between the US and the EU on wine labelling and production conventions. But it has been suggested that the US was able to dictate terms significantly in its own favour because the US wine market is so important to EU wine-producing countries.
Under the terms of the deal, each side will recognise the other's winemaking practices. But this means that the US can continue to sell wines in the EU made using practices banned under EU regulations, such as the use of wood chips and water dilution, and thereby, say objectors, compete unfairly with European products. Germany has called for a "purity law" to protect European wines from unfair competition from US producers.
The EU also did not manage to secure a ban on the use in the US of European geographical indicators, an issue which has long been a bone of contention with European winemakers. However, following the deal, the US administration will ask Congress to impose some limitations on the use of these names.
The provisional agreement is also supposed to prepare the ground for more detailed negotiations on these matters in due course. But this has not satisfied Germany and other objectors.
"Adding wood chips to wine in Europe is just unimaginable in our wine culture," German agriculture minister, Horst Seehofer, said. "It cannot be that American artificial wine ends up on the German market without the consumer recognising it. The German quality wines will be drowned by cheap laboratory wines because of this deal."
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