Thailand is currently working on a law which would
protect Thai products throughout the international marketplace. This law
will mirror that which the World Trade Organization (WTO) defines as
‘geographical indications’ or GIs. Dozens of Thai products may be tagged
for geographical-indications protection once the law passes parliament.
These products include Thai hom mali rice from Buri Ram, salt eggs from
Chaiya, ‘pomelos’ from Nakhon Chaisri and ‘mon thong’ durians from
Expected to be in effect next year, the law on
geographical-indications protection passed through the senate in early
December and was sent back to the lower house for another reading.
The World Trade Organization defines geographical
indication as “indications which identify goods as originating in the
territory of a member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a
given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially
attributable to its geographical origin.”
For example, when consumers refer to whisky, they
immediately think of Scotch. Genuine Scotch is only made in Scotland. The
same thing applies to the wines of France. Genuine Champagne and Bordeaux
come from regions of France. ‘Champagne’ from California or Australia is
referred to as a ‘sparkling wine’. Many countries can produce red wine,
but red wine is not Bordeaux unless it comes from this region in France.
A product protection law will be good for Thailand and
will allow the country to register Thai ‘hom mali’ rice from Buri Ram,
which tells the consumer it is high-quality rice from that region of
Thailand. Other countries produce jasmine rice; however, after the law
passes, they will not be able to call it Thai ‘hom mali’ rice.
Geographic indication laws will also protect Thai
products from counterfeiting and illegal use of Thai names and destinations.
These laws also provide the consumer with detailed information on the origin
and quality of the product.
WTO members are considering how to extend
geographical-indications protection to cover all products.At present it
covers only wine and spirits. France has thus been able to protect its
Champagne name. Other countries producing similar products can only call
them sparkling wines. GIs will not only help consumers to identify and
discriminate, the registration laws also help producers sell products at
higher prices. (TNA)