The US claimed victory on Tuesday in a trade fight with the EU over the right of US exporters to use geographic food names such as Florida oranges or Idaho potatoes to describe their products in European markets.
US officials said a ruling from the World Trade Organization (WTO) upheld US claims that the EU was discriminating against American products and producers by not granting them the right to use "geographical indications" (GI) for their products.
"This is a big win for American farmers and food processors," US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said in a statement.
"We brought this case because we believed that, under WTO rules, US farmers, ranchers and other food producers should have the same access to protection for `geographical indications' as European food producers. Europe clearly failed to provide this access," he said.
EU officials took issue with that claim, saying they had not impeded geographic registrations from producers outside of Europe.
"We did not impede the registration of third countries' GI's. We even welcome it," Claude Veron-Reville, an EU spokeswoman on trade issues, said in Brussels.
"The panel has vindicated our GI system," the spokeswoman said yesterday.
The US and European officials were commenting on a WTO report that was provided on Tuesday to the parties in the dispute but has not yet been made avaialble to the general public.
The ruling will not be adopted officially by the WTO for several more months. At that point, the losing side can appeal the case to a WTO appeals panel.
US officials said if the EU accepts the WTO decision it will force European countries to accept petitions from American companies for "geographical indications."
They said the ruling will help US producers of such products as oranges and other citrus products from Florida, Texas and California, potatoes from Idaho and onions from Vidalia, Georgia.