China: Scotch whisky gets geographical protection

China - an important market for scotch whisky – has announced that it will recognise and protect ‘scotch whisky’ as a Geographical Indication (GI).

Scotch whisky’s registration as a GI in China – recognising scotch whisky can only be made in Scotland - is the culmination of three years of discussions between The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and the Chinese Government.

The announcement was made at a ministerial meeting in Beijing between the right honorable Dr Vince Cable MP, the UK business secretary, and Zhi Shuping, minister of China’s general Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ). The SWA chief executive, Gavin Hewitt, attended the meeting as part of the UK business delegation.

According to a statement from the SWA, the decision ensures the highest levels of protection by China’s enforcement authorities. The new rules also ensure that local consumers will be better protected from imitations, while the integrity of scotch whisky as a product made in Scotland is supported.

Chinese officials visited Scotland in 2009 to learn more about how scotch whisky is made and protected. This was followed by technical meetings in Beijing between the SWA, Chinese Government and British Embassy officials in March 2010.

Speaking in Beijing, Gavin Hewitt, SWA chief executive, said: “The Chinese Government’s strong commitment to protecting consumers of scotch whisky from imitations is welcome. Scotch whisky’s recognition as a geographical indication is a major step forward, helping the industry to stop fake products in what is an exciting and growing market.

“The Association’s effort to register scotch whisky in China has received excellent support from the British and Scottish Governments, and the British Embassy in Beijing. Today’s announcement will help us to develop further this increasingly important market for scotch whisky distillers.”