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Geographical branding bolsters trade ties

Updated: Apr 2, 2021 Xinhua Print
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Bottles of pumpkin seed oil are displayed at a supermarket in Vienna, Austria, on March 2. They are among the first batch of products that benefit from the geographical indication agreement between China and the European Union. [Photo/Xinhua]

Since 2019, China has promulgated a series of laws, regulations and IP protection guidelines, including the Foreign Investment Law, to create a fairer and more transparent business environment.

The industry watchdog has also cracked down on IPR infringements and offered high-quality IP services for foreign enterprises.

The country's efficiency in processing patent applications is now world class. In a 2020 report by the World Bank, China's business environment ranking surged to 31st globally from 46th in 2019.

The NIPA also attributed the deal to a well-established GI system. China had approved 2,394 GI products and had 6,127 GI trademarks registered by the end of February. More than 10,000 enterprises had received permission to use GIs. The total output value of enterprises using GIs exceeded 600 billion yuan ($91.61 billion) in 2020.

GI has also helped Chinese farmers battle poverty. Twenty-four demonstration areas of GI product protection were built, covering all major counties in the national poverty alleviation and development scheme.

For example, Sangzhi county, Zhangjiajie, Hunan province, is known for its distinctive pillar-like peaks and precipitous cliffs featured in the 2009 movie Avatar. With a population of 470,000 and 28 ethnic groups, it once had some of the poorest areas in China. However, in recent years, NIPA has made great efforts to help locals develop GI-based industries. Enterprises in the county have applied for registration of GIs and trademarks on tea, honey and vegetables, creating agricultural brands, setting up factories and increasing farmers' incomes.

China's efforts on IPR protection are recognized by its trading partners. Luis Castro Henriques, chairman and CEO of the Portuguese Trade& Investment Agency, said the China-EU agreement will enable Portuguese producers of GI wines and pears to look at the Chinese market more confidently.

"Their products will be protected by competent local authorities against possible infractions of intellectual property and brand usurpation. They will also benefit from greater recognition of their products and their images, which will certainly help increase trade between the EU and China," he said.

Last year, China overtook the United States to become the EU's largest trading partner, with bilateral trade volume reaching $649.5 billion. EU imports from China grew by 5.6 percent year-on-year and exports rose 2.2 percent.

More importantly, the trade relationship has strengthened amid the global economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The signing of the China-EU Agreement on GI shows that economic and trade cooperation continued to advance without stagnation," said Cui Hongjian, director of the Department for European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies.

And in four years, the scope of the landmark China-EU agreement will expand to cover another 175 GI names from both sides. Cui said it would result in reciprocal trade benefits and greater cooperation.

And the trend is growing, with China promoting bilateral GI cooperation with France, Thailand and Japan.

China will continue to participate in processes under the framework of the World Intellectual Property Organization-promoting the improvement of international rules, standards and related trade and investment-to make the global IPR governance system more just and equitable, NIPA said.

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