U.S. challenges wine sales in B.C., seeks shelf space for American producers

U.S. challenges B.C. wine sales in grocery stores

VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s decision to sell only B.C. wines in grocery stores appears to have left a bitter aftertaste in the United States, which is launching an international trade complaint on the policy.

The U.S. challenge filed Wednesday alleges B.C.-only wine sales is a breach of Canada’s commitments to the World Trade Organization.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said the province’s regulations provide a substantial competitive advantage for B.C. wines.

“American winemakers produce some of the highest-quality, most popular wines in the world,” Froman said in a news release. “When U.S. wine producers have a fair shot at competing on a level playing field, they can compete and win in markets around the globe.”

The U.S. has sent a letter to the Canadian government asking for consultations as a first step toward resolving the dispute. If that fails, the U.S. said it may request the WTO establish a dispute settlement panel.

The B.C. government said it is confident the province is complying with international trade obligations

“Trade agreements such as NAFTA allow for a number of private wine outlets that sell only B.C. wine, and we are confident in the approach we have taken,” Shirley Bond, the minister of jobs, tourism and skills training, said in a news release.

She said the number of liquor stores selling imported alcohol has increased significantly since 1987, from 344 to about 1,100 today.

Canadian trade expert Peter Clark said the U.S. complaint is serious and “definitely worth fighting.”

He said Canada has several counter-arguments to the U.S. complaint, including that many small wine producers in the U.S. are granted subsidies to stay in business. Those subsidies can make up to 90 per cent of their volume sales.

But Clark said he’s concerned the U.S. action could result in widespread changes to Canadian wine sales and distribution. The action could also see international wines, and not just wines from California, end up in Canadian grocery stores.

“If you get (a ruling) for the U.S., it’s going to be there for Europe,” Clark said in a telephone interview from Ottawa. “It’s going to be there for everybody because the WTO operates on a non-discriminatory basis. It’s something to take very seriously.”

B.C. amended legislation in April 2015 to allow wine sales in grocery stories and held an auction for licences about a year later.

A news release from the executive office of U.S. President Barack Obama said the regulations implemented by B.C. intentionally undermine free and fair competition.

“Canada and all Canadian provinces must play by the rules,” Froman said.

Acting U.S. Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse said in B.C., local wines get an unfair advantage because they can be sold on grocery store shelves, while U.S. wines cannot.

“The United States simply seeks equal opportunities to market our wines, consistent with Canada’s international obligations.”

B.C. New Democrat David Eby said the dispute could have a huge impact on B.C.’s wine industry.

“It was so obvious this was going to happen and that the trade challenge would be successful against this plan,” he added.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Langley Rotarians work for clinics in Kenya

Local Rotary Clubs are asking locals to think of others at Christmastime.

Looking Back: Dec. 14, 2017

The community’s history as recorded in the files of the Langley Advance

Throwback Thursday: December 14, 2017

Can you help us caption a photo from Langley’s past?

Giants invite fans to toss teddy bears at Langley game

The annual Teddy Bear Toss takes place at this Sunday’s home game in the LEC.

Langley Christmas Fun: a listing of holiday events, Dec. 14, 2017 edition

Langley events: LangleyAdvance.com/add-event or news@langleyadvance.com (subject: Christmas Fun).

VIDEO: Carollers bring festive sounds to Langley City most Fridays

Shoppers will once again be entertained by choirs, musicians and bands this month in McBurney Plaza.

Debt-to-household-income ratio rises in third quarter

Total household credit market debt grew to $2.11 trillion in the third quarter

B.C. Mountie told to resign after texting teenage sex assault victim

RCMP documents say Const. Brian Eden sent sexually inappropriate photos to 17-year-old girl

Family doctors should learn to treat addiction, not shun patients: scientist

B.C. Centre on Substance Use’s Dr. Evan Wood said efforts underway to change addiction medicine image

Update: Small fire near Maple Ridge tent city

Occurred outside camp Wednesday night

Four dog deaths investigated in Cranbrook

One vet suggests a parallel to these deaths and similar ones in 2016

Meningococcal disease outbreak declared in Okanagan

Five cases in last six months among 15- to 19-year-olds, including one in Vernon

Military life gives way to chance as author

Retired Chilliwack officer pens book about life in Afghanistan

Province rejects Ajax mine in Kamloops

KGHM Ajax had proposed a 1,700-hectare open-pit copper and gold mine, just southwest of Kamloops

Most Read