China recognises Scotch whiskys GI status

China recognises Scotch whisky's GI status

Scotch whisky distillers have welcomed China's move to legally protect their products from copycats.

China has made good on its commitment to recognise Scotch whisky as a geographic indication (GI). The announcement, made today (8 November), follows a meeting in Beijing between the UK Government's business secretary, Vince Cable, and China's minister for quality, supervision, inspection and quarantine, Zhi Shuping.

The move ensures that Scotch whisky will enjoy the highest level of trademark protection in China, which is a promising market for distillers.

"Scotch Whisky’s recognition as a geographical indication is a major step forward, helping the industry to stop fake products in what is an exciting and growing market," said the CEO of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), Gavin Hewitt.

The SWA has worked for years with UK, Scottish and EU authorities to obtain international recognition for Scotch whisky as a unique product that can only be made according to certain rules in Scotland.   

Scotch exports to China are thought to be worth around GBP80m (US$130m) per year, compared to GBP1.5m a decade ago, the SWA said. The SWA estimates that a significant amount of those exports pass through a third country in Asia before reaching China. Direct exports to China were GBP44m in 2009, making it the industry's 16th largest export market by value.

Global Scotch whisky exports rose by 17% in value in the first half of 2010, the SWA said last week.