Geographical indications (GIs) for agri-food products are a major asset of the European model of agriculture, acting not only as a tool for protecting consumers' interests and reinforcing confidence in high-quality typical products, but also as a legal and commercial basis for the development of rural areas, the preservation of cultural heritage as well as the promotion of SMEs. GIs are also a global issue, regulated in international law by the WTO and warranting increasing attention world-wide. However, no comprehensive analytic framework and data set was available to assess their effects. The objective of the EU FP6 project "Strengthening INternational Research on Geographical Indications" (SINER-GI) was to build and share a coherent scientific basis worldwide, regarding economic, legal, institutional and socio-cultural conditions of success of GIs, in order to support their legitimacy in the framework of WTO negotiations.The project approach built on a review and typology of products bearing a GI under different institutional and market frames in former and acceding EU Member states and in Third countries. This database lead to the formulation of a robust analytical framework and of internationally relevant monitoring indicators. The conceptual model was then applied to in-depth analysis of selected case-studies in extra-EU countries compared to EU. Long-term scenarios were assessed; policy recommendations addressed improvements needed to maximise GIs contribution as a driver for rural development and consumers' confidence.