U.S. again targets B.C.’s ‘unacceptable’ wine regulations, as ‘unfairly’ keeping American products off shelves

The U.S. announced Friday it will again take Canada to the World Trade Organization (WTO) over British Columbia’s “unacceptable” wine policy that only allows province-made wine to be sold on grocery store shelves.

The Trump administration said B.C. regulations breach Canada’s trade commitments and the province “must play by the rules.”

“Canada is an important market for U.S. winemakers,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. “Discriminatory regulations implemented by British Columbia are unfairly keeping U.S. wine off of grocery store shelves, and that is unacceptable.”

READ MORE: Canadian policies favouring domestic wine break trade rules, Australia complains to WTO

In 2015, the B.C. government allowed the sale wine on grocery store shelves, but limited it to wines made within the province. Imported wine, including from the U.S., must be sold in a separate location.

“Canada and all Canadian provinces, including BC, must play by the rules. The Trump Administration will continue to hold our trading partners accountable by vigorously enforcing U.S. rights under our trade agreements and by promoting fair and reciprocal trade through all available tools, including the WTO,” Lighthizer said.

The U.S. says the segregation of imported wine is “discriminatory” and limits sale opportunities for U.S. wine producers. The Trump administration claims such regulations breach “Canada’s WTO commitments and have adversely affected U.S. wine producers.”

“We want customers in British Columbia to have the opportunity to buy our great American wine. The practice of discriminating against U.S. wine is unfair and cannot be tolerated any longer,” Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a statement. “Our wine producers rely on export markets and they deserve fair treatment, especially by our northern neighbours in British Columbia.”

This isn’t the first time the U.S. has filed a complaint with the WTO over wine regulations. In October 2017, the U.S. called B.C. wine regulations a “serious problem.” The States’ first raised the issue 10 months earlier, but a dispute panel was not established with the WTO.

READ MORE: B.C. premier vows to fight to keep B.C. wine in local grocery stores

In January, Australia followed America’s lead and also complained to the WTO, saying that not only B.C., but also Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia, as well as the Canadian government, had policies on wine that broke WTO rules.

“It appears that a range of distribution, licensing and sales measures such as product mark-ups, market access and listing policies, as well as duties and taxes on wine applied at the federal and provincial level may discriminate, either directly or indirectly, against imported wine,” Australia’s trade representative said in the complaint.

–with a file from Reuters

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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