Irish whiskey has secured legal protection - or "geographic indication" (GI) status - in China.

This means that only whiskey produced here can carry the "Irish whiskey" label in the huge Chinese market. Irish Whiskey is the country's leading GI category. 

The bilateral agreement with China, which was under negotiation for a number of years, was finalised today at a meeting in Beijing and was signed by EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan. 

Today's agreement also provides a legal recourse to take action against fake Irish whiskey on sale in China.

It also covers Irish cream liqueur. 

"Irish whiskey sales in China have historically been low, but the category recorded 50% growth in 2018. Chinese consumers are increasingly looking for authenticity. This agreement protects and promotes authenticity and will grow sales," commented William Lavelle, Head of the Irish Whiskey Association in Drinks Ireland.

"The protection provided in this agreement will further give Irish whiskey producers the confidence to invest in increased sales and marketing in China, knowing that there is legal remedy to crack down on fake competitors," he added.

Commissioner Phil Hogan said that European geographical indication products are renowned across the world for their quality. 

"Consumers are willing to pay a higher price, trusting the origin and authenticity of these products, while further rewarding farmers. This agreement shows our commitment to working closely with our global trading partners such as China," the Commissioner said.

"It is a win for both parties, strengthening our trading relationship, benefiting our agricultural and food sectors, and consumers on both sides," he added. 

Other European products included in today's deal include Cava, Champagne, Feta, Münchener Bier, Ouzo, Polska Wódka, Porto, Prosciutto di Parma and Queso Manchego. 

Among the Chinese products, the list includes Pixian Dou Ban (Pixian Bean Paste), Anji Bai Cha (Anji White Tea), Panjin Da Mi (Panjin rice) and Anqiu Da Jiang (Anqiu Ginger).

The agreement is expected to come into force before the end of 2020.