Geographical Indications out of Context and in Vogue: The Awkward Embrace of European Heritage Agricultural Protections in Asia

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 15:50
Oral Presentation
Hart FEUER, Kyoto University, Japan
Populist policymakers in many Asian countries have recently begun embracing the European model of geographical indications (GIs) as it promises a pathway to international prominence for famous domestic agricultural products. The motivations share consistent themes in most cases, with proponents suggesting that territorially-defined product differentiation is already informally recognized and that the products in question are world-class but under-marketed. Although the premise for such a ‘policy transfer’ is persuasive, it has led to divergent and inconsistent policy results across Asia due to the myriad local adaptations to the regulations. While legal and technical variations have long been a facet of the migration of such policy for intellectual property in food, the challenges that face Asian countries largely can be delimited to a specific subset: the spectrum of sui generis models of geographical designation established among countries with divergent levels of economic development. While this area remains relatively underdeveloped empirically, scholars have suggested that a particular focus should go to the prospects for spurring rural development (strong producer institutions and preservation of biodiversity and knowledge) and raising welfare in an ethically-sound manner. This paper approaches this prescription by contrasting the roll-out of such GI policies in Japan and Cambodia. This paper evaluates the differences in policy orientation in each country, the initial roll-out and suitability for domestic agricultural producers and value chain, and the extent of inconsistencies vis-à-vis other Asian countries and the European Union. While the Japanese policy’s rapid deployment has largely relied on strong producer support structures and pre-existing market structures for heritage agriculture, Cambodia has trodden slowly to create new institutions and defuse potential conflicts. As the initial perceptions of success have started to fade, light has been cast on the incongruous definitions of GI products and the long-term viability of the European model.