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

Lynette Rowe
January 18, 2018

In a statement, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Steve Ciobo said the move was the first time Australia had initiated formal action with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) since 2003.

Australia has seen exports of bottled wine to Canada nearly halve between 2007 and 2016, from $224 million to $119 million, although sales to Britain and the United States, once its top export markets, have fallen by even more.

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.

In its formal objection, filed with the World Trade Organization (WTO), claimed that Canadian laws had unfairly disadvantaged worldwide wine producers, and follows a similar complaint made by U.S. manufacturers back in October 2017.

"While it would have been preferable to resolve this issue bilaterally, it is appropriate to commence dispute proceedings given the lack of progress".

Canada is Australia's fourth-largest export market for wine, with annual sales in the region of CAD190m (US$153m).

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Australia's complaint mirrors a similar dispute from the United States, revived by the country in late 2017.

Like the US, Australia has protested against 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" with a separate cash register.

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

Winemakers Federation of Australia chief executive Tony Battaglene told The Australian there had been long-running issues with exporters' access to the Canadian market, but protectionism had "ramped up" in recent years.

Mr Ciobo denied the action is connected to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's snub of other world leaders during talks on a new Trans-Pacific Partnership deal at APEC last November.

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

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