A dozen grocery stores around B.C. will have a VQA-only wine licence.

B.C. wine in grocery stores target of U.S. trade complaint

Californian vintners argue exclusive access for B.C. VQA wines is 'discriminatory.'

American wine makers want to overturn the province’s decision to let select grocery stores exclusively sell B.C. VQA wine, arguing shoppers should be able to buy international wines as well in those outlets.

If successful, the challenge under international trade agreements could transform or even put a cork in the centrepiece of the B.C. government’s liquor policy reforms.

The California Wine Institute submitted its complaints to the Office of the United States Trade Representative in an Oct. 27 letter stating that the regulations were “blatantly discriminatory.”

The B.C. government announced in 2014 that as of April 1, 2015, grocery stores would be able to apply for a permit to sell B.C. wine on their shelves under one of two different models.

A VQA-only licence allows stores to bypass the rule they be at least one kilometre from liquor stores, as well as avoiding the ‘store within a store’ model set out for non-B.C. wine.

California Wine Institute vice-president and international trade counsel Tom Lafaille said the organization has opposed the regulations since their implementation.

“We were assured by the B.C. government and industry that imported wines would still be able to be sold in B.C. grocery stores,” Lafaille said, adding that this two-part model doesn’t satisfy that promise.

“We’re working with industry and governments… this is an international effort to free up grocery store shelves for non-B.C. wine.”

The VQA-only permit goes against Canada’s international trade commitments, said Lafaille. The submission to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative noted that the U.S. and Argentina, Australia, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand and the United Nations filed formal objections with the B.C. government challenging the new system on April 29, 2016.

While the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement has been called into question by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to renegotiate or rip it up, U.S. wine lobbyists aren’t relying solely on NAFTA.

The letter stated that as new regulations appear to favour B.C. wine over imported wine, the nations question “whether they are consistent with Canada’s commitments as a member of the World Trade Organization – specifically the national treatment obligations under Article III:4 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994.”

But the province disagrees.

“To our knowledge, no regulatory tariff action has taken place and no trade injunctions has been filed,” said Ministry of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction communications director Bill Anderson.

“The B.C. wine on shelves mode will never see more than 60 partners and the liquor licences that are in these grocery stores are the same VQA licences that have existed in B.C. for years.”

Currently, Anderson added that only 12 grocery stores – six per cent of the total amount in B.C. – will have VQA-only licences, including one in South Surrey.

 

 

@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

 

 

Just Posted

Readers vote for Nanaimo’s Best of the City

Complete results of the Nanaimo News Bulletin’s 2019 survey

Man appealing conviction for drive-by shooting attempt in Nanaimo

Armaan Singh Chandi was sentenced to nine years in jail in B.C. Supreme Court last month

Nanaimo, Lantzville, Parksville, Qualicum partner on studying child care needs

Union of B.C. Municipalities provides $125,000 grant

June has been Nanaimo’s driest on record so far

Predictions for rain this week could bring temporary relief

RCMP make arrest following break-in at Parksville’s Log Cabin General Store

Police credit tips from public for helping with case

VIDEO: Killer whale steals fisherman’s catch off North Coast

Fishing duel results in eager orca snagging salmon in Prince Rupert

Pedestrian struck by vehicle in Stz’uminus dies from injuries

A male pedestrian was struck in the early morning of June 25

Child killed after being hit in driveway on Vancouver Island

The driver of the vehicle remained at the crash scene and is fully cooperating

Foot ferry service in Nanaimo won’t happen this summer

Island Ferries says it still needs to secure funding

Thieves steal tents meant for Nanaimo school’s Grade 7 camping trip

Businesses, staff and parents ensure trip goes on

Fate of accused in Canadian couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

PHOTOS: North Island home gutted in fire deemed ‘suspicious’

No injuries reported; firefighters prevented blaze from spreading

Eating sandwiches, putting on makeup behind the wheel could land you a fine

RCMP say if you cause an accident while eating you could be penalized

Cat badly hurt in animal trap was likely stuck for days, B.C. owner says

Blu, a three-year-old house cat, suffered severe damage to his hind leg after being stuck in trap for days

Most Read