AN argument over the origins of Manchego cheese is hindering the completion of a trade deal between the EU and Mexico.
It comes as the Latin American country resumed talks with the bloc yesterday in a bid to seal an updated version of its 18-year-old deal.
Mexico is desparate to diversify its trading partners as US president Donald Trump repeatedly threatens to do away with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
While it had been making fast progress on modernising its 2000 trade deal, things hit a snag on the final details, most notable whether Mexico has the right to produce Manchego cheese, which originated in Spain’s La Mancha region.
Despite having spent three days in Brussels, Mexican economy minister Ildefonso Guajardo hasn’t managed to break the deadlock over the contentious outstanding issues, which also include geographical indications and investment protection.
The Europeans want exclusive rights to the Manchego name, along with more than 300 other products ranging from wines to beers to meats.
Mexico feel their producers would take too much of a hit considering Manchego accounts for 15% of total cheese sales.
It also says its variety of Manchego is ingrained in local culture and does not even resemble the Spanish original.
“People identify it as a very national product that isn’t even related to the European version,” said Miguel Angel Garcia Paredes, head of the National Chamber of Dairy Industries.
Mexican Manchego is made from cow’s milk and is often melted over hot dishes, unlike the Spanish original, which comes from sheep’s milk and is typically semi-hard.
“People don’t expect a Spanish Manchego when they go to the supermarket and ask for a Manchego. The Spanish kind is a lot more expensive,” Garcia Paredes told AFP.
Mexico said the new round of talks would focus on rules of origin, technical barriers to trade and intellectual property.
EU-Mexico trade has nearly tripled to $61.7 billion a year under the deal.
But that is still dwarfed by US-Mexico trade, which totaled $523.8 billion in 2016.
The EU-Mexico talks are set to last until January 17.