The European Union (EU) has signed a bilateral agreement with China to protect European Geographical Indications (GI) in China, as well as 100 Chinese GI in the EU.

The deal will enable Irish whiskey producers to take legal action against fake products on sale in China.

The Irish Whiskey Association said: “We welcome the historic EU-China agreement on protection of geographical indications.  This secures protection for Irish Whiskey in China for the first time. Sales in China grew 50% last year.”

The EU list of GI to be protected in China includes Cava, Champagne, Irish whiskey, Münchener Bier, Ouzo and Polska Wódka.

The beverage and food products to be protected in EU under the latest GI agreement include Anji Bai Cha (Anji White Tea), Pixian Dou Ban (Pixian Bean Paste), Panjin Da Mi (Panjin rice) and Anqiu Da Jiang (Anqiu Ginger).

EU agriculture and rural development commissioner Phil Hogan said: “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. It is a win for both parties, strengthening our trading relationship, benefitting our agricultural and food sectors and consumers on both sides.”

The agreement is expected to come into effect by the end of next year after gaining approval from the European Parliament and the Council.

Under the agreement, the two parties have agreed to include 175 names in the GI list after completion of four years.

In September, Irish whiskey secured geographic indication (GI) status in India, indicating that only spirits made in Ireland can use ‘Irish whiskey’ on their product labels.

In June, IWA announced that Irish whiskey exports are set to double to 12 million cases by 2020.

Distilleries in Northern Ireland are contributing to the growth of the market, one of the fastest-growing in the spirit category.

According to the Department of International Trade (DIT), exports from ports such as Belfast, Londonderry, Warrenpoint and Coleraine to non-EU countries were worth £25.6m last year.