U.S. goes to World Trade Organization over B.C.-only wine policies


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The United States has asked the World Trade Organization to establish a dispute settlement panel over what it says are unfair regulations on the sale of wine in British Columbia grocery stores.

The U.S. trade representative’s office claims provincial regulations discriminate against imported wines by allowing only B.C. wines to be sold on grocery store shelves.

U.S. trade ambassador Robert Lighthizer says in a news release that Canada is an important market for American winemakers and B.C.’s discriminatory regulations are unacceptable.

American Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says in the release that the discrimination against U.S. wine is unfair and cannot be tolerated.

But the B.C. government says deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement allow some private outlets to sell only wine from a single province.

Trade Minister Bruce Ralston says in a statement that the government will stand up for B.C. wine and hundreds of jobs in the industry.

“We will work closely with the Government of Canada to best protect our interests in this dispute in the context of our international trade obligations. We’re proud of our wine producers and their contribution to our economy.”

The U.S. statement says the provincial regulations appear to breach Canada’s World Trade Organization commitments and have adversely affected American wine producers.

The office of the trade representative says U.S. wine exports to B.C. last year totalled $56 million, a 10 per cent share of the market.

The B.C. government says American wines have by far the largest share of the imported wine market in the province. It says sales of U.S. wine increased by 32 per cent from 2013 to 2017.

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