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To protect distinctive regional foods, the European Union (EU) has a legal scheme covering over 1,000 Geographical Indications (GIs) for food items such as Parma ham and Gouda Holland. Using Eurostat Comext export data 2004-2018 for cheeses at the CN8 level, this paper tests whether past protection of GIs through 11 Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) has increased trade in them. The answer matters for trade policy, since the protection of at least some GIs has been a red line in EU FTA negotiations. The analysis is set in a standard gravity-model framework, using a pseudo-Poisson maximum likelihood (PPML) approach to account for the issue of zero-trade flows. We find that legal protection of GIs in FTAs does not significantly increase trade in them. Our main suggested policy implication is that the EU should focus on external promotion of its GIs rather than asking trading partners for stronger legal protection.


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