Environmental labeling, protected geographical indications and the interests of developing countries

Among developing countries, one can identify both proponents and opponents of extending the use of geographical indications (GIs) beyond wines and spirits. Such an extension is currently being discussed under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the World Trade Organization. While labeling is mostly based on private initiatives, GIs are considered to be long-term public rights. Proponents therefore regard GIs as the stronger tools for protecting their national property rights and offering them new opportunities to develop their export markets. Opponents, however, consider GIs to be new barriers to trade that impede their export opportunities. This article clarifies these positions and pulls together some evidence on costs and benefits related to GIs versus labels.