Published: Wed, January 17, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Australia files WTO complaint over Canada's 'discriminatory' sale of overseas wine

Australia files WTO complaint over Canada's 'discriminatory' sale of overseas wine

"We know we have some of the best wine in the world and I want to ensure that Australian wines have their very best chance of reaping the benefits of export sales in a market like Canada".

Australian winemakers complained about what they describe as "protectionist" measures.

The Australian government is looking to commence a formal consultation over "Canada's discriminatory measures affecting Australian wine" - namely, restrictions on the sale of imported wine in Canadian grocery stores, as well as extra fees relating to imported wine.

But the wine industry is hoping the WTO dispute will bolster their cause in trying to gain market access to Canada.

Like the US, Australia is opposed to rules in the province of British Columbia, where local wines can be sold in grocery shops but imported wine must be sold in a "store within a store".

Speaking to ABC Radio earlier today Ciobo said that this was not related to the Canadian Prime Minister's snub of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations at the APEC Summit in Vietnam a year ago.

"Australia has requested formal WTO consultations on measures discriminating against Australian wine imports that we consider to be clearly inconsistent with Canada's WTO commitments".

The issue comes as another blow for exporters, with uncertainty still looming over the Trans-Pacific Partnership after Canadian Prime minister Justin Trudeau held off on signing the deal back in November.

"These are unrelated events", he said.

The US will have 60 days to resolve the complaint, failing which Vietnam can request adjudication from WTO.

Steve Ciobo, Australia's Trade Minister, said Australian winemakers' market share in Canada was slowly diminishing.

The Canadian Government said it worked closely with all of its provinces and territories to ensure liquor distribution and sales policies were consistent with its global trade commitments.

"Wine sales in Canada are controlled by provincial liquor boards".

Welcoming the announcement, the Winemakers' Federation of Australia (WFA) said it was "delighted" the Australian government had chose to take action.

"We respect the Canadian wine industry, but we are seeking a level playing field to ensure we can maximise our opportunities in this key market".

Vietnam has also voiced concern that the USA has broken rules on dispute settlement while turning down Vietnamese exporters' request for a revocation of the anti-dumping measures, although they are eligible for such a revocation.

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